Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood



Author: Kerry Greenwood

Kerry Greenwood has worked as a folk singer, factory hand, director, producer, translator, costume-maker, cook and is currently a solicitor. When she is not writing, she works as a locum solicitor for the Victorian Legal Aid. She is also the unpaid curator of seven thousand books, three cats (Attila, Belladonna and Ashe) and a computer called Apple (which squeaks). She embroiders very well but cannot knit. She has flown planes and leapt out of them (with a parachute) in an attempt to cure her fear of heights (she is now terrified of jumping out of planes but can climb ladders without fear). She can detect second-hand bookshops from blocks away and is often found within them.

For fun Kerry reads science fiction/fantasy and detective stories. She is not married, has no children and lives with a registered wizard. When she is not doing any of the above she stares blankly out of the window.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Fiction, Literature, Detective Series

Read… in a cushy chair wrapped in blankets while… recovering from a cold.

Music I listened to while reading this book: Pink Martini & The Von Trapps

Cocaine Blues

Title: Cocaine Blues: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Publication Date: April 1, 2007

Purchase your copy here.

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Rating: 3 out of 5 Dogwoods


Summary (from the back cover): The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the green-gray 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.

Review: I am a big fan of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. When I picked up this first book in the series that the TV show is based on, I had high hopes. For once, however, I will say that I found the TV show to be better than the book.


Phryne Fisher is an investigator in 1920’s Melbourne, Australia with an amazing wardrobe, cash to burn, and a taste for adventure. Cocaine Blues opens with Phryne quickly solving the mystery of a diamond theft at her parents’ dinner party in London, England. Finding Phryne’s detective skills to be impressive, a couple at the dinner party hires Phryne to investigate the health and well-being of their grown daughter, Lydia. Lydia married and moved to Melbourne, Australia, and has since been suffering from strange ailments. Lydia’s parents suspect foul play on the part of her husband.

Feeling restless with London society and looking for a new adventure, Phryne leaps at the opportunity to be a lady detective in Melbourne. When Phryne arrives in Melbourne, a great deal of things happen: there is the main mystery – what is going on with Lydia’s health – which seems to be related to a possible cocaine ring; a man known by the gruesome name of “Butcher George” is performing illegal abortions on desperate young girls, leaving them to die from hemorrhaging or septicemia; there is a deposed Russian princess and Russian ballet dancers who seem to be involved in some sort of trouble of their own creation; and there is the young housemaid, Dot, whom Phryne rescues and hires as her lady’s maid.


It seems as though all of these subplots were set up to introduce the recurring secondary characters who will appear throughout the series, but it was almost too much to fit into one book of 175 pages and it detracted from the main mystery. In fact, for most of the book, I cared far less about Lydia’s illness than I did about Butcher George running around town. Greenwood makes up for it, though, with the fantastic character of Phyrne Fisher; Greenwood’s narrative reflects Phryne’s irreverent nature. For example, Phryne’s thoughts on babies:

“They are not aesthetic like a puppy or a kitten. In fact, they always look drunk to me. Look at that one—you’d swear he had been hitting the gin.”

I could only give the book 3 out of 5 dogwoods, however, simply because I had the TV show to compare to the book; the TV show’s plot is smoother, it is visually fantastic (those costumes!), and it moves along at a faster pace.

Overall, this book was a pleasure to read. As the ladies at Smart Bitches Trashy Books summarized, “It’s like good oolong tea–smooth and subtly bold and delicious.” It was a fairly diverting if not altogether memorable way in which to spend a few hours. On those days when I long to revisit one of my favorite lady detectives, I will pick up the other installments of the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series.


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