No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

2011/37: Murder in Montparnasse -- Kerry Greenwood

"Where did you learn to elude pursuit like that? You're very good."
"John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps," said the girl, with spirit. "Who taught you to burgle houses?"
"A burglar," said Phryne, as though surprised at the question. (p. 206-7)
Another Phryne Fisher mystery, set in 1920s Melbourne. Phryne (who frequently features in the local scandal rag as 'High Class Girl Dick', to her delight) is approached by two friends, Bert and Cec, who believe that someone's targetting a small group of Aussie ex-soldiers, all of whom spent an eventful post-liberation break in Paris in 1918. So far two of the seven are dead, under very suspicious circumstances.

There's also the case of a missing heiress, whose father is a racing name and whose sister is the epitome of dumb blonde. Seems to be a simple case of blackmail, except that some of the facts don't quite add up.

Phryne welcomes both cases, not least because her household staff are up in arms: her lover, Lin Chung, is about to marry a Chinese bride who he's never met, and Mr and Mrs Butler, who've turned a blind eye to her carrying-on thus far, aren't willing to be party to adultery. And she, too, was in Paris in 1918, though there's something she's forgotten about her time there. Something she doesn't want to remember ...

She pieces together bright fragments: arguments with Sylvia Beach and Djuna Barnes, drunken evenings in the company of Phryne's lover Rene, and afternoons spent modelling for artist Pierre Sarcelle, who'd subsequently met a grisly end at the Gare du Nord.

Nothing's quite as Phryne expects, from her encounter with Lin Chung's bride-to-be to the identity of French chef Anatole's new kitchen help: there's a certain amount of guesswork involved in at least one plot-thread's resolution, but overall a nicely-plotted mystery.

Note to readers: this is, I think, the 12th Phryne Fisher book, and I haven't read all of the previous novels, so there were quite a few, clearly well-established, secondary characters who were unfamiliar. Greenwood gives plenty of context for each of them, though, so confusion's avoided.

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