The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season — Task the Tenth: The Holiday Down Under:
– Read a book set in Australia or by an Australian author, or read a book you would consider a “beach read”.
Well, I can see how a screen version of this might work rather nicely, but alas, as written, it wasn’t really for me. I liked Bert and Cec, and Dr. MacMillan, and Dot (once transformed, though her transformation was perhaps a bit of a rapid one) … but I couldn’t much bring myself to care for either Phryne herself, or the narrative voice, or the story as such. And I’m afraid the author already lost me right at the beginning, where there is an IMHO not-very-successfully-executed attempt at an Agatha Christie / Arthur Conan Doyle supersleuth-style “instant solution” of a crime committed in Phryne’s presence (which then, even more implausibly, serves as instant motivation for one of those present at the scene, who doesn’t until then have seemed to know much about Phryne, to entrust her with the both expensive and rather delicate task of travelling all the way to Australia to look after his daughter’s wellbeing). Moreover, both the author and Phryne seemed to share a sneering tone, talking down to the reader and half the other characters alike, which I found rather grating, particularly in a book billed as a “cozy” mystery. Fundamentally, though, what I found fairly preposterous was the notion that a young woman, who hasn’t been to Australia since her childhood days (when she moved in quite different circles from those in which she is moving upon her return, and who therefore can’t possibly know or anticipate all the pitfalls of her commission), merely needs to show up in Melbourne and, in the space of only a couple of days, manages to solve not one but several crimes that have had the Melbourne police all up in arms for months … and all this by pushing buttons that, in the case of both of the chief criminals, should have stared any halfway competent policeman and / or the criminals’ own associates in the face within about the same amount of time it ended up taking Phryne to discover them. (But then, Phryne has virtually no faults at all to begin with — she is Superwoman incarnate, which is one of my major pet peeves anyway.) Add to all that the super-clumsy drop of a clue as to the final reveal fairly early on in the story — the sort of clue that, if used by Christie or Conan Doyle at all, is bound to be a means of the most skillful misdirection, not the dead giveaway it is here — and I was seriously underwhelmend all the way through.
Still, as I said, there were characters I enjoyed, and the writing, narrative voice and major plot implausibilities aside, flowed nicely — and judging by the popularity of both the book and the TV series, I decidedly seem to be in the minority here as far as my overall opinion is concerned …