Phryne Fisher

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search

In early 1928, bored, wealthy aristocrat Phryne Fisher (pronounced 'fry-knee') solves a minor mystery at a dinner when she finds a stolen necklace. One of her fellow guests is impressed by her skill at deduction and asks her to solve a case for him in Australia. Phryne returns to her native land, solves the case and becomes a private detective. Taking Melbourne and the rest of Victoria by storm with her class, skills, flair and talent for continually doing scandalous things, she quickly builds up a group of friends and allies- everyone from a pair of cab drivers to one of the few female doctors in the country- while solving her strange and myriad cases.


The Phryne Fisher mysteries:

  • Cocaine Blues
  • Flying Too High
  • Murder on the Ballarat Train
  • Death at Victoria Dock
  • The Green Mill Murder
  • Blood and Circuses
  • Ruddy Gore
  • Urn Burial
  • Raisins and Almonds
  • Death Before Wicket
  • Away With The Fairies
  • Murder in Montparnasse
  • The Castlemaine Murders
  • Queen of the Flowers
  • Death By Water
  • Murder in the Dark
  • A Question of Death (short story collection)
  • Murder on a Midsummer Night
  • Dead Man's Chest

The series has recently been adapted into a TV series on ABC, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Several changes have been made from the canon, including giving Phryne a new sister called Janey and an Aunt called Prudence. Fan reactions have been... mixed at best.

The books contain instances of these tropes:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Abusive Parents: Phryne and Eliza's mother never really did much to help them, and their father was an alcoholic bastard who continually tried to force his daughters into arranged marriages they didn't want.
  • Action Girl: Phryne.
  • Berserk Button: Phryne does not take it well when people mess with anyone in her family- especially Jane, Ruth or Dot, who aren't good at protecting themselves.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In Dead Man's Chest, Phryne meets a maid called Bridget, who she describes as being perfectly nice and helpful. In the end of the book, Bridget murders the horrible mother of her employer, probably because she felt sorry for the old woman's over-exhausted companion (her reasons weren't stated).
  • Blue Blood: The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher and her sister the Honourable Miss Eliza Fisher.
    • Lady Alice Harborough, too.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: In Death At Victoria Dock and heavily, heavily implied between the Templar twins.
  • The Butcher: Backyard abortionist 'Butcher George' in Cocaine Blues.
  • Clueless Mystery: Occurs often. For example, in Murder In The Dark, the abductor is revealed to be Sylvanus, but we're never told some of the things that leads Phryne to figure it out- like that he can't swim, for instance.
  • Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: One of the things that leads Phryne to believe that the abductor in Murder In The Dark was Sylvanus, which it was turned out to be his being in possession of two lunch boxes. Because it's impossible that he could have just been carrying one to someone else.
  • Costume Porn: Phryne's art deco high fashion wardrobe, including a genuine Erte ball gown. However, if she disguises herself as a poor person, she is careful to have her garments aged and dirtied.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: lampshaded in Murder in Montparnasse
  • Disappeared Dad: Ruth, though he comes back.
  • Driven to Suicide: Isabella Templar from Murder In The Dark admits to Phryne that she was contemplating committing suicide rather than going bankrupt.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Phryne pretty much sleeps with whoever the hell she likes, and it's justified- see Refuge in Audacity below.
  • Evil Matriarch: More like obstructive and annoying matriarch, but Lin Chung's grandmother definitely counts.
    • Basically, all Chinese matriarchs are like this. Hell, all Chinese elderly women are like this.
  • Food Porn: Often.
  • Friend on the Force: Detective Inspector "Call me Jack" Robinson.
  • Genius Ditz: Jane, one of Phryne's adopted daughters.
  • Genteel Interbellum Setting: Most of the stories are set in 1928 (the most recent books are set in 1929). Phryne reads both Agatha Christie (she is reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd during Murder in the Dark) and Dorothy L. Sayers.
  • Girl Friday: Dot Williams, Phryne's confidential maid and companion.
  • Instrument of Murder: The mute in a cornet is used as a blowgun in The Green Mill Murder.
  • The Jeeves: Tobias Butler, Phryne's butler.
  • Lady of Adventure: Phryne.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Ruth finds out that her father was James Murray. They get on pretty well.
  • Missing Mom: Ruth, though she ends up visiting her for the first (and last) time.
  • Motive Rant
  • No Bisexuals: Eliza, Phryne's sister, is a lesbian, but nobody once brings up the possibility of her being bisexual.
    • Phryne herself. She once said that 'My Sapphic friends say I'd make a perfect lesbian if I didn't have this strange yen for male genitalia.' The word 'bisexual' has never come up, or anything like it.
  • Recycled in Space: Several of the stories in A Question Of Death. The story about the Book of Hours is basically a subplot that got dropped from Death Before Wicket, anyone who read Urn Burial should be able to guess most of the plot of Overheard On A Balcony with no trouble, and so on. They're not all totally unoriginal, of course.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Phryne does a lot of things normal people shouldn't be able to, such as taking a Chinese man (who gets married) as a lover, dressing scandalously (at least for 1928) and employing and adopting people from the streets. It's justified because as a rich, powerful, connected woman with very few secrets who doesn't care about what people think of her, Phryne is unaffected by the effect these acts should have on her reputation.
    • Although it's not without repercussions- Mr Butler nearly resigns in Murder in Montparnasse when Lin Chung gets married but Phryne doesn't leave him, and there's a number of scenes where people react aversely to Phryne's habits (like when Evelyn puts her and Lin in rooms at opposite ends of the house because she doesn't like Chinese, in Urn Burial).
  • Running Gag: Ruth's obsession with romances, up until it gets her into trouble in Queen Of The Flowers, after that the romances vanish.
    • Also, Dot's fear/mistrust of the telephone.
  • Sauna of Death: Phyrne and Sascha are locked in a Turkish bath in Cocaine Blues.
  • Society Marches On: In The Castlemaine Murders, Eliza has a secret she finally confesses to Phryne: she's a socialist- and also, as we find out later, a lesbian. This doesn't seem like much to modern viewers, but the idea of a noble woman being a lesbian socialist would have huge repercussions for Eliza and her entire family in the day.
  • Supreme Chef: Ruth, Phryne's other adopted daughter.
  • Thriller on the Express: Murder on the Ballarat Train. Zig-zagged in that while there is indeed a murder on the train to Ballarat, most of the action takes place in Melbourne.
  • Title Drop: In Away With The Fairies, Phryne describes Ms Lavender as being totally away with the fairies- that is, insane.
  • True Companions: The soldiers in Murder In Montparnasse. They are not happy when two of them are murdered.
  • Villainous Breakdown
  • World War I: Phryne joined an all-women ambulance brigade in France during the last year of the war, and was decorated for courage.