‘No one cares about bad girls!’ Polly burst out indignantly. ‘They make one mistake and they are shut up in the laundry doing hard work. Their babies are adopted out. they are ruined. We ought to have got beyond that. What use is freedom – they told us that they fought that war for freedom – when the women are still punished and the men go on to seduce another girl?’
Girl Reporter Polly Kettle is on a case. Girls and pregnant women are going missing all over Melbourne, and she’s going to figure out what’s happening to them. Phryne Fisher warns her to be careful but the warning is unheeded and soon Polly vanishes, too. It’s time for Phryne, Dot and her minions, to figure out what is going on. But this is a case which take all of Phryne’s strength – both physical and emotional – as she delves into some truly horrible situations.
Unnatural Habits, the latest Phryne Fisher Mystery and features all the mystery, the raciness and the lushness of previous instalments, with favourite characters including (of course) the daring Phryne Fisher, independently wealthy and sharp private investigator, her companion the straight-laced Dot, her adopted daughters and her Chinese lover, the luscious Lin.
Whilst she has certainly faced dark realities in previous mysteries, Unnatural Habits takes Phryne to some truly terrible places, which confront her as much as they will confront the reader – particularly as she explores both child abuse and the appalling treatment of unwed mothers. However, Greenwood has the knack of entertaining and amusing even whilst not holding back, so that while the horrible realities are not played down, the reader is offered relief in sub plots and character development. New character Tinker is one such bright spot, a teenage boy finding himself resident in a sea of females in Phryne’s house.
Set in 1929 Melbourne, Unnatural Habits is a highly satisfactory addition to the series.
Unnatural Habits, by Kerry Greenwood
Allen & Unwin, 2012
Available from good bookstores or online.