Even on holiday, Phryne Fisher can’t escape a mystery.
It’s not much of a welcome to the borrowed house in the Australian coastal town of Queenscliff. On arrival with her companion Dot and her two adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth, Phryne finds the promised servants absent, along with every ounce of food. The next-door neighbor Mrs. Mason provides them with a hamper of comestibles to see them through and with Tinker, a young lad who’ll prove his worth as a budding sleuth. Ruth, who’s always wanted to be a cook, takes on the kitchen duties with help from Dot and bookish Jane, while Phryne, who’s decided that the local constable is a dead loss, investigates the mysterious disappearance of the Johnsons. When the servants’ beloved little dog, Gaston, turns up thin and filthy, the case takes on a more sinister tone. The neighbors seem equally dubious. On one side, heavy-drinking Mrs. Mason houses her son and his two friends, who are always in trouble, while on the other lives odd Madame Sélavy, who invites Phryne to a party with a group of highly unusual guests. The arrival of Dot’s policeman fiancé widens the scope of the investigation, adding smugglers, movie makers, pirates’ treasure and a roving pigtail slicer.
Phryne (Murder on a Midsummer Night, 2009, etc.) handsomely demonstrates once more that even a compulsion to explore every mystery that comes her way needn’t interfere with her appetite for life.