Book Review: UNNATURAL HABITS, Kerry Greenwood

  • Published by Allen & Unwin 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-74237-243-3
  • 332 pages
  • #19 in the Phryne Fisher series
  • library book
  • read an extract

Synopsis (Allen & Unwin)

1929: pretty little golden-haired girls are going missing in Melbourne.
But they’re not just pretty. Three of them are pregnant, poor girls from the harsh confines of the Magdalen Laundry. People are getting nervous.

Polly Kettle, a pushy, self-important Girl Reporter with ambition and no sense of self preservation, decides to investigate–and promptly goes missing herself.

It’s time for Phryne and Dot to put a stop to this and find Polly Kettle before something quite irreparable happens to all of them. It’s a tale of convents and plots, piracy, murder and mystery . . . and Phryne finally finds out if it’s true that blondes have more fun.

My Take

Nearly a quarter of a century on from the start of the series, Phryne Fisher is going as strong as ever. This remarkable, seemingly ageless, sleuth has gathered quite a household around her now, and also has the local police in her pocket. Most of Melbourne’s high society either count her as a friend, or they owe her something, and so she has passage into places that the police on their own could never penetrate, like the Blue Cat Club and the Abbotsford Convent and the Magdalen laundry.

For me Kerry Greenwood seems to have captured well the essence of society’s attitude to unmarried mothers, as well the growing militant unionism of the late 1920s. A mark of her indefatigable research.

These novels carry the hallmarks of most cozies, with a tinge of Australian history and attitudes. There’s plenty of humour, and loads of well drawn characters. At the same time they are well plotted, and I think UNNATURAL HABITS is almost Greenwood at her best. Their growth in popularity, and that of the Miss Fisher television series, ensure they are also available overseas, at least in e-format, for a reasonable price.

My rating: 4.8

I have reviewed

Phryne Fisher series
1. Cocaine Blues (1989)
aka Death by Misadventure
2. Flying Too High (1990)
3. Murder on the Ballarat Train (1991)
4. Death at Victoria Dock (1992)
5. The Green Mill Murder (1993)
6. Blood and Circuses (1994)
7. Ruddy Gore (1995)
8. Urn Burial (1996)
9. Raisins and Almonds (1997)
10. Death Before Wicket (1999)
11. Away with the Fairies (2001)
12. Murder in Montparnasse (2002)
13. The Castlemaine Murders (2003)
14. Queen of the Flowers (2004)
15. Death By Water (2005)
16. Murder in the Dark (2006)
17. Murder on a Midsummer Night (2008)
18. Dead Man’s Chest (2010)
19. Unnatural Habits (2012)
20. Murder & Mendelssohn (2013)


Review: GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS, Maggie Groff

Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Intrepid investigative journalist Scout Davis has given herself a holiday, but when Hermione Longfellow accosts her in the supermarket, she stops to listen.

Most people in Byron Bay are aware of the
eccentric Anemone sisters. Always dressed in black, they rarely leave their home nestled in the hills – but Scout is sure that the drinking of chicken blood is just idle gossip. When Hermione asks Scout to track down her sister Nemony’s AWOL husband, believed to have died at sea thirty years ago but recently popped up again on the Great Barrier Reef, Scout jumps at the opportunity.

Another source of intrigue falls close to home when Scout’s sister Harper despairs over her husband’s odd behaviour. And as if that wasn’t enough, Scout’s journalist boyfriend
is finally coming home from Afghanistan. Trouble is, Scout thinks she may be falling in love with irresistible local cop Rafe – who coincidentally is also Toby’s best friend…

Delightfully witty and addictively fast-paced, this is the second hilarious outing for unforgettable sleuth Scout Davis.

My Take

I wasn’t sure whether this title by 2013 Davitt Award winner Maggie Groff (she scooped the Australian Sisters in Crime pool of Best Novel and Best First novel with MAD MEN, BAD GIRLS a few weeks ago) would actually be my cup of tea. It seemed that it would be “lighter” than my usual crime fiction fare. But then I chose it for my face to face reading group to read in the coming month, so in a sense I was committed.

I did have my doubts in the first 50 pages or so, but then things settled down a bit, and I must admit to enjoying both the plot and the plotting skill. The blurb on the front cover calls sleuth Scout Davis ” a successor to Evanovich”, and I thought I could detect a bit of Phryne Fisher there too.

I also enjoyed the quirky humour – who would call their cat Chairman Meow? – but underneath it all there is some serious, realistic characterisation and some careful plotting. There are a couple of other humour lines such as the guerilla knitting group that I thought were a bit superfluous but I guess they show another dimension of Scout’s character.

I think this series has a future.  My rating: 4.6

International readers can find it here on Amazon US for Kindle or audio.

See Bernadette’s review

Review: OUT OF EXILE by Luke Preston

Out of ExileOUT OF EXILE follows Tom Bishop a damaged and dangerous ex-cop with the result simply noir – blurred justice, violence, and a case for vengeance tripping over the borders of criminality. Dig deeper, and the deluge of damned souls and corrupt cops seeps deep into the cracked Melbourne pavement. The reality not distilled by the outrageous but supported by the outlandish – this level of rife corruption and blatant disregard for civilian safety could easily happen, a factious tag-line from the Herlard or Australian. And that’s what makes OUT OF EXILE so good.

Broken out of prison, Bishop finds himself embroiled in a multi-layered crime of smoke and mirrors where the true purpose of the corrupt elite isn’t clear until the bloody ending. Raw from the loss of his daughter, Bishop’s justice radar still learns towards the blue line – this despite being involved in a kidnapping, break-in of his former foe’s house and torture of a prominent cops’ wife. While things look bad for Bishop’s predicament, his relentless pursuit of justice enforced by street law provides a constant glimmer of hope where none should filter.

OUT OF EXILE builds upon the Aussie conceptual noir, DARK CITY BLUE, the first book to feature Tom Bishop. The key players return (those not six feet under) with more character depth and the reader, more situational awareness of the fictitious Victorian police landscape. Familiarity with the characters is paramount to the reader reactions to their decisions and actions. While I think anyone could read OUT OF EXILE as a standalone, it works much better having read DARK CITY BLUE.

Author Luke Preston does a great job at keeping the reader guessing while planting landmines of explosive twists throughout the course of events. Like its predecessor, OUT OF EXILE is action an action pack non-stop noir where no one is safe from the tantalising grip of corruption and promised wealth.

Be sure to check out my main blog (link below) for an upcoming post where I interview Luke Preston!


– This review also appears on Just A Guy That Likes To Read

The 2013 Ned Kelly Award Winners Are…

This year’s Ned Kelly Awards have been handed out this evening at a ceremony held as part of the Brisbane Writers Festival. Thanks to the #neddies13 twitter stream I can report that, In order of announcement, the winners are

TheMidnightPromiseBest First Fiction

Zane Lovitt – THE MIDNIGHT PROMISE winner

Other shortlisted titles

ThePeopleSmugglerBest True Crime

Robin De Crespigny – THE PEOPLE SMUGGLER winner

Other shortlisted titles

S.D. Harvey Short Story Award

Roger Vickery for Echoes From The Dolphin winner

Blackwattle Creek - McGeachin,15489fBest Fiction

Geoffrey McGeachin – BLACKWATTLE CREEK winner

Other shortlisted titles

Fair Dinkum Crime congratulates all the winners and shortlisted authors.

For comments from the judges visit the Australian Crime Writers Association website

The 2013 Davitt Award Winners Are

While your humble correspondent was temporarily occupied with non-bookish pursuits over the past few days the winners of this year’s Davitt Awards for crime writing by women were announced at a glittering event held as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival. The awards are given by Sisters in Crime Australia and this year’s winners are:

Best Adult Novel


Best Debut Novel


Best Children’s/Young Adult novel


Best True Crime


Reader’s Choice


Somewhat appallingly I discover I haven’t read a single on of these winners, though I have linked above to Kerrie’s review of the Kerry Greenwood novel.

Kerry Greenwood was also the recipient of the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award.

For more information about the awards ceremony head to the Sisters in Crime website and for the judging panel reports for each category and the acceptance speech transcripts you can read this eight-page document.

Congratulations to all the winners.