Australia’s answer to Lord Peter Wimsey takes on white slavers and the Catholic Church.
The Honorable Phryne Fisher and a friend are on their way to the Adventuresses Club when they see a lone woman about to be attacked by several thugs. After the minions of Phryne’s lover, Lin Chung, chase them off, Phryne finds she that she’s rescued an ambitious, rather ungrateful young reporter named Polly Kettle who’s investigating the disappearance of three women, pregnant and unmarried, who’d been working in the Magdalen Laundry at the Abbotsford convent. Late in their pregnancies, they were to be sent to a nursing home where the babies would be delivered and immediately taken away. According to Polly, the police have no interest in the case. When no bodies turn up, Phryne embarks on what will be a dangerous quest to learn the women’s whereabouts. Although she’s certain that the local brothels wouldn’t be interested in such pregnant females, she discovers that an employment agency seems to be collecting very young women and shipping them overseas, never to be seen again. The police, in the person of Phryne’s friend Jack Robinson, are forced to investigate when Polly is kidnapped. After calling on the laundry, whose working conditions are much less pleasant than those in the brothels she’s visited, Phryne, who cannot abide injustice and cruelty, goes up against some well-armored antagonists in an attempt to find Polly and the other missing girls.
Among Phryne's pleasantly dashing adventures (Dead Man's Chest, 2010, etc.), this one stands out for its emphasis on sexual orientation and institutional coverups.