The new year brings a slew of reading challenges. I know, I know, do I really need to participate in another reading challenge? Well I’ve got to stay on track with my reading goal somehow, and this one only requires a one-book commitment. That is so doable. So, why not?
And I had such a fun time participating in last year’s Jazz Age January, hosted by the lovely Leah over at Books Speaks Volumes, that I didn’t even hesitate to jump into the fray again. (You can read all about this year’s challenge here and join in yourself any time during the month.)
Once again, this challenge was perfectly timed. I’d just started binge-watching season two of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix, and I was totally in a rebellious 1920’s flapper kind of mood. After a few episodes, I really had to fight off the impulse to bob my hair. (I’m still growing it out after the last time I whacked it all off.)
I was also suddenly in the mood to try out the books the series is based on – a much less risky diversion – so, my first selection for this year’s Jazz Age January Challenge is…
COCAINE BLUES written by Kerry Greenwood.
Published by Allen & Unwin
Release Date: 1989
Genres: Crime, Mystery
The first of Phryne’s (pronounced fry-nee) adventures from Australia’s most elegant and irrepressible sleuth.
The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the green-grey eyes, diamant garters and outfits that should not be sprung suddenly on those of nervous dispositions – is rapidly tiring of the tedium of arranging flowers, making polite conversations with retired colonels, and dancing with weak-chinned men. Instead, Phryne decides it might be rather amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia.
Almost immediately from the time she books into the Windsor Hotel, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings, corrupt cops and communism – not to mention erotic encounters with the beautiful Russian dancer, Sasha de Lisse – until her adventure reaches its steamy end in the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street. (Plot summary from publisher’s website.)
I’ve always loved the roaring twenties. If I’d lived then, I hope I would’ve been an independent, adventurous type like Phryne. This was an effortless read. The voice was so similar to the show, I was just delighted with it. It was also really fun to read how all the main characters end up working together in this first mystery.
It is different from the TV series – still all of the great character traits really come through. Dot, Phryne’s new maid, who takes everything Phryne throws at her in stride, is just as lovable as ever. Bert and Cec, the hired muscle, are still such colorful mongrels. The swoon-worthy Detective Inspector Jack Robinson makes his debut as well. Somehow Phryne can’t seem to keep out of his way or out of solving his investigation. So much underlying sexual tension there! And Dr. Mac – one of my favorite minor characters – it was nice to see her so prominently displayed in this story.
The mystery was intriguing, with just the right amount of those Jazz Age details that I love. I did have it all fairly figured out before the big reveal – the whodunit, if not all gory the details. It was a great romp of a read that I whole-heartedly recommend to all. (Full-disclosure, there is a rather racy sex scene, which fit right along with the storyline and shouldn’t shock most readers.) There are fifteen more books in the series to read that I fully intend to enjoy.
Learn more about Kerry Greenwood here.
Follow Kerry on Facebook here.
I plan on reading at least one more book for this challenge, so stay tuned!
Update as of February 7th: I struggled through the second book I chose to read, A FAREWELL TO ARMS, so long that by the time I finished it, January was over. To read my thoughts on it, visit my page all about reading here.
How about you? Have you read any books from this era lately?