Cocktails, Mystery, & Murder in the 1920s

essie“Intelligent women do have their uses, Inspector.”

If there’s ever been a day to curl up with a book or to binge-watch Netflix, this is it.  Last I heard it’s -15 here in Chicago with a windchill of -35.  These are not numbers I understand.  I am immensely grateful that serendipity has landed this arctic freeze on my day off.  If you, like me, are holing-up for the next day or three, might I suggest checking out my latest obsession: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. 

Miss Phryne (pronounced fry-nee) Fisher is a chic lady detective solving crimes in 1920s Melbourne. Based on a book series by Kerry Greenwood, Miss Fisher is an Australian television series starring Essie Davis, who does an excellent job of bringing Phryne’s glamour and smarts to the screen.

Phryne Fisher has moxie, which is term I love but rarely get to use, and is of the same ilk as Amelia Peabody Emerson, wielding a pistol rather than a parasol.  Her outfits are divine, but she is not afraid to sully them in back alleys or by diving into a fray. She is a champion of women’s rights, the life of the party, intelligent, and head-strong. I think Essie Davis’s own description of the spirited heroine says it best,

“I guess Phryne Fisher is the female answer to James Bond, Indiana Jones or a combination of both. She’s an incredibly independent woman from the 1920′s, who was born in poverty and inherited great wealth. She’s incredibly skilled, she lives life to the fullest and is a woman who never wants to get married but loves life and loves men. She’s an advocate for women’s rights and the rights of the less privileged in the world and she’s got a knack for sleuthing and finding out ‘whodunit’. She’s both a mystery and a bit of a romp.” Tellyspotting, ‘Q&A with Essie Davis’

Beneath the glitz of cocktail parties and jazz clubs, Miss Fisher has a darker, more serious side.  Plagued by the childhood disappearance of her younger sister, this more personal mystery becomes a through line that gains prominence as the series progresses, making it all the more compelling.  Having finished the 13 episodes that are available on Netflix–that’s all we Americans get right now–I am tracking down a few of the books and eagerly awaiting season 2’s arrival.


For those of you who can’t get enough of 1920s murder, PBS has adapted Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New Yorkwhich is airing tomorrow night, January 7.  I listened to the audio of this book a few years ago and found it fascinating, so I will definitely be checking it.

However you choose to weather this weather, I hope you stay warm, safe, and entertained!


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