Friday, January 25, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Death Before Wicket by Kerry GreenwoodBuy from
Death Before Wicket by
A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-170-9 (1590581709)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-170-4 (9781590581704)
Publication Date: January 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Phryne Fisher is on holiday. She means to take the train to Sydney (where the harbour bridge is being built), go to a few cricket matches, dine with the Chancellor of the university and perhaps go to the Arts Ball with that celebrated young modernist, Chas Nutall. She has the costume of a lifetime and she's not afraid to use it.

When she arrives there, however, her maid Dot finds that her extremely respectable married sister Joan has vanished, leaving her small children to the neglectful care of a resentful husband. She rescues the children, but what has become of Joan, who would never leave her babies? Surely she hasn’t run away with a lover, as gossip suggests?

Phryne must trawl the nightclubs and bloodtubs of Darlinghurst to find out. And while Phryne is visiting the university, two very pretty young men, Joss and Clarence, ask her to find out who has broken into the Dean's safe and stolen a number of things, including the Dean's wife's garnets and an irreplaceable illuminated book called the Hours of Juana the Mad. An innocent student has been blamed.

So there is no rest for the wicked, and Phryne girds up her loins, loads her pearl handled .32 Beretta, and sallies forth to find mayhem, murder, black magic, and perhaps a really good cocktail at the Hotel Australia.

Review: Ostensibly on holiday Phryne Fishers travels from her home in to Sydney in Death Before Wicket, the 10th mystery in this entertaining series by Kerry Greenwood.

In fact, Phryne has been summoned to Sydney through a circuitous route of introductions to look into the disappearance of an eclectic assortment of items from a safe at a local university. A classmate of two young men who act as Phryne's escorts in Sydney has been accused of the crime. No sooner has Phryne agreed to investigate then her personal and confidential maid, Dot, reports that her sister is missing, abandoning her husband and children. As a personal favor to Dot, Phryne also agrees to find her, determine why she disappeared, and bring her home. It hardly seems like an ideal way of spending a holiday for most people, but Phryne is certainly in her element.

Death Before Wicket is definitely one of the better books in this series, possibly because, despite the heat of Sydney, Phryne seems fresher and more energetic than in recent outings. Much to her surprise, the theft turns out to be far more complicated that she originally imagined. "I began to investigate it at the insistence of two young men anxious to clear their friend's name. Now I'm up to my elbows in black magicians, tarot cards, foretellings and secrets, and I'm beginning to get quite cross", she says to one of the university professors. Greenwood has clearly done a considerable amount of research on ancient Egyptian mythology and modern Australian cricket and seems to draw parallels between them. Maybe they exist but they're likely to be lost on those readers not intimately familiar with both. Not understanding won't affect one's appreciation of the overall book, but it's possible that having some familiarity with either or both will enhance it. At times the plot appears to be more complicated than it needs to be but that's possibly the author's purpose since the motive behind the crime is really quite simple and the identity of the culprit foreshadowed early in the book. As for locating Dot's missing sister, Phryne shows a lot of imagination and resourcefulness in tracking her down and ultimately reuniting her with her family.

Phryne's sexual proclivities are a standard part in these mysteries and, while their inclusion often seems gratuitous and unnecessary, for the most part they are fairly innocuous. In Death Before Wicket, however, they appear to be particularly distasteful and are the only significant distraction (and not in a good way) to an otherwise terrific book.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of Death Before Wicket for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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