Kerry Greenwood’s Cocaine Blues is the first Phryne Fisher mystery, about a self-described “lady detective” in Jazz Age Australia, as she investigates a potential poisoning, and quickly gets embroiled in a bunch of complications.

Lady detective she may be, but Fisher is no Nancy Drew—she’s a determined libertine, daredevil, and fashionista, and her character is definitely the sparkling core of the book. Unfortunately, the rest of the book just isn’t up to its protagonist. Scenes are choppy, pacing is uneven, the writing is rough (particularly noticeable when it jumps perspective in the middle of a scene), and the plot is driven by a fair pile of coincidences and events that don’t actually make sense if you think about them.

But it’s clear this series has been successful (there are twenty books and a TV show), and this is the author’s first novel, so presumably those rough edges get polished off as the series goes on. Tentatively recommended, on the optimistic basis that the series gets better from here.


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