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Cocaine Blues: 07/18/16

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood is the first of the Phryne Fisher mystery series, inspiration for the excellent Australian TV series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.

The book opens with Phryne solving a snatch and grab at a party she's attending before setting sail for Australia. The Great War has decimated her family suddenly elevating her scoundrel of a father to gentry. With Phyrne's newfound fortune she decides to head home and away from her father as quickly as possible.

Enjoying the excitement and satisfaction of solving a case, Phryne considers becoming a lady detective. I suspect though it was initially an idle thought until she finds herself thrust into a number of mysteries shortly after disembarking.

There are actually three mysteries: a friend who is probably being poisoned, a rapist doing dangerous abortions, and a turf war over cocaine imports. Now in the TV version, the emphasis is on the poisoning, beginning with the husband dropping dead in the bath. Here, the poisoning plot is tertiary to everything else which I found distracting since it was the part of the plot I remembered best.

The other big difference between the two is Dorothy, aka Dot, the young Catholic woman Phryne ends up employing as a personal assistant. Dot in the book, while still devout and chaste, is not the scared mouse she's portrayed as in the first episode. There's an idiotic scene in the TV show where Dot can't pick up the phone to answer because she's afraid of the electricity. It struck me then as out of character and now I can see that it was created for the TV show to tie together Dot's introduction to Phryne with the poisoning plot.

Anyway, it's a short, quick, and enjoyable read. I think it helps to see the series first to get a sense of the different characters as the book throws a lot at your in a very short number of pages.

Five stars

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