Title: Unnatural Habits
Author: Kerry Greenwood
Genre: Historical Mystery
Opening lines: ‘…The attack came suddenly…’
Unnatural Habits is the 19th Phryne Fisher investigation and this time she looks at the dark side of Melbourne and the treatment of young unmarried mothers. Phryne gets drawn into the investigation when she rescues a young woman from being beaten up by three thugs. The woman turns out to be a reporter called Polly and she is investigating a story about 3 pregnant girls who have vanished from a convent that is supposed to be caring for them until after their babies are born. She believes that the girls are forced to work in the convent laundry under conditions so cruel it is a wonder they survive long enough to give birth. She also tells Phryne that blond girls are disappearing and she believes the two things are related. Shortly after this detective-inspector Jack Robinson tells Phryne that Polly has gone missing and needs her help because of the female angle, there are some places a male detective just can’t go. He knows Phryne can get to places he can only dream of.
Despite of the seriousness of the investigation there are many funny incidents and lots of witty repartee to break up the drama. Fast paced and well written the characters come alive off the pages. All the usual sidekicks are here, Phryne’s adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth; the Butlers who are her housekeeper and Driver/Butler respectively; then her aide-de-camps Bert and Cec and her maid Dot. Each of these characters have their role to play in the investigation. From brothels to nunneries and out to a farming commune, no stone is left unturned. Slavery, incest and paedophilia are rife and an avenging angel is cheered on silently. It is sad to see that the ladies in the brothel were treated better that the young girls were in the notorious but historically true Magdalene laundry in Melbourne run by the Sisters of Mercy.
Where can the girls be? Where is Polly, and who is taking the young blonde girls? Never fear, Phryne is here and with a huge daring edge of the seat rescue mission climax all is revealed, justice served, not necessarily legal justice, and the end finally arrives after lots of twists and turns. The settings and characters are very believable as is the wrap up. I love this series and love the TV version as well. May there be many more.
Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.
For more about the author – Click Here
Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood is book # 3 for AWW2014