Review: When an independent-minded reporter, who was investigating the disappearance of several pregnant young women, is kidnapped and goes missing herself, Phyrne Fisher steps in to take charge of locating her in Unnatural Habits, the nineteenth mystery in this series by Kerry Greenwood.
Phyrne and her friend Dr. Elizabeth MacMillan are looking forward to a night at their favorite club when they come across a most distressing scene: a young woman about to be attacked by thugs. Phyrne's bodyguards make quick work of breaking it up, and invite the woman to accompany them to their club. She introduces herself as Polly Kettle, a reporter, who's concerned about three former prostitutes, each in their final month of pregnancy. They have now vanished from the Magdalen Laundry at the Abbotsford convent, where they were sent to work until they gave birth. Their own families have disowned them and the police are not interested in finding them. That turns out to be not quite true, especially when Polly is kidnapped. Phyrne's close friend on the police force, Jack Robinson, pays a visit to her home, saying that his department doesn't have the time or the manpower to investigate all the brothels in Melbourne. "So you want me to enquire and expose myself to the same danger?" she asks. "You won't be in any danger," Jack replies. "Everyone knows about you. … That you're not to be trifled with."
Set in 1929, Unnatural Habits is one of the more troubling cases that attracts Phryne's attention. Fortunately, lighter elements balance the darker side of the crime plot, most notably in the form of 14-year-old Tinker, the newest member of Phyne's household, and a self-styled apprentice detective. The oldest of a large family of fishermen, he's familiar with the rough and tumble on the streets and the wharves, and uses his life skills to great advantage here. The stylish Phyrne herself is a delight, always ready with a quip, and keenly observant of all that goes on around her.
As is typical with the books in this series, the storyline is well structured and moves along at a relatively brisk pace. And while it isn't strictly necessary to have read any of Phyrne's previous adventures to enjoy this one, new readers may be somewhat confused by the sheer magnitude of Phyrne's sphere of influence and how the rather sizeable number of people that share her space came to be a part of her life. Their backstories can be found in the earlier mysteries in this series, a literary trip most definitely worth taking.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an eARC of Unnatural Habits for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Trick or Treat
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), October 2009
ISBN-13: 9781590585320; ISBN-10: 1590585321
Location(s) referenced in Unnatural Habits: Melbourne, Australia
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Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood — A Phryne Fisher Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: January 2013
List Price: $24.95