I have not read any part of this series (the Phryne Fisher series) in order. I have some on my kindle (with the 1920s illustration type covers), some paperback (with the TV tie in covers, which I actually like) and one audiobook.
I'll be honest, some of the books I like quite well and some I don't love as much. I suppose it's because I started the TV series first so I'm quite in love with the actors portrayals. The books are different with the characterization and storylines. For instance, the romances that Miss Fisher has are vastly different and Dot's whole personality is different. The mysteries are much more fleshed out in the books, which can be thrilling. This particular book has some interesting sub-plots that don't make it into the TV show.
Also of note, Greenwood has done so much research into food, clothing, and lifestyle. At times, it veers into the cozy-extra detailed that I despise but overall, I enjoy Greenwood's writing and style.
This book takes place in Queenscliff, while Miss Fisher is on vacation with her family. There's a murder, missing gold, a movie shoot plagued with problems, a hair snatcher, and a group of surrealists.
Title: Dead Man's Chest (Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries/Phryne Fisher no.18)
Author: Kerry Greenwood
Page Number: 262 pages (paperback)
Genre: fiction, mystery, historical, cozy mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Year: 2010 (reprint 2017)
Dot unfolded the note. "He says that his married couple will look after the divine Miss Fisher...I'll leave out a bit...their name is Johnson and they seem very reliable." Phryne got the door open at last. She stepped into the hall. "I think he was mistaken about that," she commented.
Traveling at high speed in her beloved Hispano-Suiza accompanied by her maid and trusted companion Dot, her two adoptive daughters Jane and Ruth, and their dog Molly, The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher is off to Queenscliff. She'd promised everyone a nice holiday by the sea with absolutely no murders, but when they arrive at their rented accommodation that doesn't seem likely at all.
An empty house, a gang of teenage louts, a fisherboy saved, and the mystery of a missing butler and his wife seem to lead inexorably toward a hunt for buried treasure by the sea. But what information might the curious Surrealists be able to contribute? Phryne knows to what depths people will sink for greed, but with a glass of champagne in one hand and a pearl-handled Beretta in the other, no one is getting past her.
In the books, Phryne has established a household that includes herself, her maid Dorothy (Dot), her two wards Jane and Ruth, and a few pets. She has an ongoing relationship with Lin (he's not in this book very much, if at all. In the TV episode he's not in it at all, which is sad because the actor is hot). Phryne decides to rent a house with staff in Queenscliff for a short vacation. She bundles everyone in her car, the famed Hispano-Suiza, and drives to the coastal town. When she arrives, she's faced with her first mystery, the staff is missing and the house is empty.
Phryne's wards set out to help out and Dot takes charge of the house as well. Her wards and what will happen to them in society is confusing to me. Ruth is very interested in cooking, so is the goal for her to be a master chef? I stay confused. Anyways, Ruth spends this whole book cooking and trying out fancy dishes.
We then meet the neighborhood boys. A calamity with mother (Mrs. Mason) in tow. She excused their more obnoxious behavior and hopes that Ruth and Jane will play with them on the beach. The introduction of Mrs. Mason helps bring three more subplots into the story, either through her telling them or through others in her presence. One is the legend of the missing gold, from a Spanish ship that sunk. It's unrecovered and treasure hunters are oft on the lookout for it. Another is that women's braids are being cut off whilst they're out on the town--most likely being sold to wig makers. The last subplot is that there is a movie crew in town, making a movie about the treasure and Spanish gold. The director has scouted locals, including a pretty girl, to play parts in the movie.
Even on vacation Phryne gets involved in mysteries! The last subplot is the introduction to a new art and a new culture movement called surrealism. Phryne is invited to a party with a local group of surrealists and the reader gets to experience surrealism first hand. I studied it in college and it's not for me! To be fair, I like my art covered in gold and owned by Louis XIV...so my taste level is "gaudy." Anyways, it was my least favorite aspect of the book, but it's a way to show Phryne on the pulse of what's new and what's hot.
The plots weave around one another, some are slightly connected (being that Queenscliff of Phryne's visit is an insular world), while others are wholly unconnected. They all get solved in their own time which helps the pacing and excitement of the book. As much as I dislike the surrealism (seriously...how many drugs were involved with this mess?) aspect, it worked for the book and I thought the layout by Greenwood was a masterstroke.
Each chapter in Greenwood's series has a quote or saying. I guess it's an epigraphy? A chapter epigraph? Is there a term for this? Anyways, her chapter nine (where Phryne attends a surrealism party) has the quote, "Surprise: non sequitur: revolution," by Andre Breton, it's from his book the Surrealist Manifesto (Manifeste du surréalisme). It truly sums up the movement in many ways. The next chapter has part of Psalms 106:39, "Thus were they defiled with their own works..." What a juxtaposition between not only the chapter quotes but the party and aftermath! Brilliant play by Greenwood! The rest of the psalm is "...and went whoring with their own inventions." Never say the Bible isn't a light read.
I also liked Chapter fourteen's epigraph. It's from William Congreve's The Double Dealer and was "See how love and murder will out."
I might try and give the cocktail a go...I've never had noyau. She has it as a one to one ratio or nayau and white rum, then pineapple juice and mint sprigs.
I do believe this was one of my favorite book of the series. Even with the surrealists. It was a focus on Phryne being Phryne (mostly she relaxes and pampers herself). Multiple mysteries of different severities, and a great story.