Murder in Montparnasse is the twelfth in Kerry Greenwood’s series featuring the insouciant Phryne Fisher. This story has many flashbacks to the end of World War I and Phryne’s time in Paris as an artist model when she was young and deeply in love. Through the memories, we learn that her love affair ended badly. Meanwhile, in the present in Australia, friends of Bert and Cec are being killed in clever “accidents” they are sure are murders. Phryne is also hired to solve a kidnapping, the young fiancée of a French chef at Cafe Anatole has disappeared. Her father is a less than licit horse breeder/racer whose activities suggest the kidnappers could have ulterior motives. There is a lot going on, in the past and in the present.
Of course, things are both more and less than they appear. Phryne untangles the many threads that knot these stories together and with the help of Inspector Jack Robinson, Constable Williams, Bert, Cec, and even her adoptive daughters, Phryne untangles the crimes of the past and the present and we learn much more about what drives her independent spirit.
I love Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher stories. They are pure wish fulfillment for me, a brilliant, beautiful, wealthy woman who can play Lady Bountiful, whose social conscience is as lively and “woke” as a present day activist, and who wears the most beautiful gowns ever made, there could be nothing better. Every once in a while, though, her books get overladen with her research. She does a tremendous amount of research in order to fully inhabit the time and place, but sometimes, I get the sense that having put so much time into the research, she can’t bear to leave it out. This is one of those books.
Frankly, I liked this least of Phryne’s novels. I enjoyed the kidnapping plot and its resolution. I loved the girls following the young suspect through the city. The murder plot is on one hand, incredibly complex and diabolical and on the other hand, completely obvious. I did enjoy Constable Collins moment of heroism and professional success and the side plots were enjoyable, but the main story and its connection to France stretched a very thin thread of plausibility past its breaking point. Add to that, the heavy weight of name-dropping and research-flaunting and it was just not up to Greenwood’s usual standard. Nonetheless, it’s still a good solid mystery and advances our understanding of Phryne and sets the stage for future stories.
Murder in Montparnasse will be released September 5th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.