Have you met the delightful Miss Phryne Fisher? Why, she’s simply the bee’s knees! She’s wealthy, sharp as a tack, and likely to solve all your little mysteries.
“One reason why Phryne solved puzzles is that she hated mysteries.”
In Murder on a Midsummer Night, Phryne takes on two disparate cases. She’s first approaching by a grieving mother, who’s fervent that her dear son did not commit suicide. Augustine Manifold was an enterprising young antiques dealer. His business was successful and thriving. His earnest wish was to set his mother up in comfort. So why then did he drown himself?
“It had been such an agreeable day until then,” narrates Phryne as the first chapter begins. She’s naturally sympathetic to Mrs. Manifold, but warns her, “I might not be able to solve this, or I might find that Augustine killed himself. I can’t skew the results.” However, Mrs. Manifold is not deterred, convinced that her son didn’t kill himself.
The chapter ends with an odd chance of scene. Much like a codicil to a will, this brief passage about two soldiers, presumably in a desert, suggests a connection to the forthcoming plot. In fact each chapter ends with such a snippet, though not all of them feature the soldiers. The mystery of these Australian veterans of World War I is explained by the end of the novel, but their connection is tenuous at best. The novel would not have suffered without them.
Far more intriguing is Phryne’s efforts—along with the help of her maid and companion, Dot; her adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth; and others—to look into Augustine’s supposed suicide. Phryne meets an immoral group of Augustine’s supposed friends. “Phryne was familiar with the insistence of the upper middle class on idleness as a measure of social status.” An apt description of Mr. Gerald Atkinson and his social set. With friends like these…
In the midst of her investigations, Phryne—because of past associations and cases solved—is approached by a lawyer, Mr. Adami. Adami would like her to look into the whereabouts of a long lost child, an heir to a wealthy woman’s fortunes. “She left everything…to be divided equally between her children…Not just her legitimate children.” The late Mrs. Bonnetti’s family is not particularly out to obstruct Phryne’s inquiries, but they certainly have something to hide. Members of the family have received notes boldly claiming, “The child is among you.”
Are the two cases related to each other or are they all in a day’s work for sleuth Phryne?
“I have been in some awful company before–I have dined with torturers and Apaches and strict Plymouth Brethren and politicians–but I have never met such vile company as those people. Each in his or her own eay, they were frightful,” confesses Phryne. But is she speaking about the Bonnetti family or Augustine’s friends?
“Poor Augustine, he was a good fellow.” So says nearly everyone in the story! Yet after some startling test results, it becomes certain that someone wished the fellow dead.
As for the missing child, Phryne and company look into the whereabouts of the child’s actor father, Patrick O’Rourke, and his connection to an actor’s benevolent society, members of which will hold the key to that case’s solution.
Fans of historical mysteries, and in particular the fabulous Roaring Twenties, will enjoy this look and the Land Down Under. Murder on a Midsummer Night takes place in January (Australia’s July) in the Melbourne area, notably St. Kilda. “The year, aware that it was very new and ought not to put itself foward, was beginning its career as 1929 modestly.” The infamous Crash of ’29 would be months away in October.
However, it’s strongly advised to start this series from the beginning, with Cocaine Blues, for the best experience. Readers starting with this 17th volume may well have many questions regarding contuining storylines and characters.
Be sure to visit author Kerry Greenwood’s website for a wealth of information and background about Phryne Fisher and her world. Visit http://phrynefisher.com/