Monday, 5 December 2016


“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” ― Voltaire

We’ve just finished watching the 2012-2015 three-season Australian TV series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteriesstarring Essie Davis, Nathan Page, Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Ashleigh Cummings. This series is based on the novels of Kerry Isabelle Greenwood (born 17 June 1954 in Footscray, Victoria), who is an Australian author and lawyer. She has written many plays and books, most notably the string of historical detective novels centred on the character of Phryne Fisher. She writes mysteries, science-fiction, historical fiction, and children’s stories, as well as plays. She is unmarried but lives with a “registered wizard”.

Miss Phryne Fisher is a wealthy aristocrat and private detective who lives in St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia, in the late 1920s. With the assistance of her maid Dot, and Bert and Cec (who are wharfies, taxi drivers and red raggers), she solves all manner of crimes in swinging Melbourne of the inter-war years. Phryne is no ordinary aristocrat, as she can fly a plane, drives her own car (a Hispano-Suiza) and sometimes wears trousers. However, while displaying bohemian panache, she manages also to maintain style and class. Phryne was accidentally named after a famous Greek courtesan who lived in the 4th century BC. At her christening, her father forgot the classical name, Psyche, that her mother had intended for her.

First, let me confess I have read a few of the Phryne Fisher novels by Ms Greenwood and enjoyed them quite a lot. When I heard that this series was made based on them I was a little skeptical as to how well the 1920s era would be captured on film (video, memory chip what have you!). But we toned down our expectations and watched the first few episodes. We were pleasantly surprised! The sets, costumes, props, authentic Melbourne locations, music, cars and homes were absolutely spot on. We watched and enjoyed every episode of the first series and went on to watch all three.

Essie Davis does an amazing job of recreating Miss Fisher’s character to a tee, although admittedly she is older than the 27 years of the novels’ heroine. This is not jarring at all and Ms Davis has enough panache, aplomb and just the right tongue-in-cheek good humour to carry off the series to perfection. She is ably supported by Nathan Page, the police Inspector with whom she collaborates in order to solve the mysteries. Her “lady’s companion” Dot, played by Ashleigh Cummings is great as the progressively progressive young, good, Catholic woman whom Miss Fisher educates in the ways of the world. Hugo Johnstone-Burt plays the long suffering and young innocent constable, the inspector’s sidekick who falls for Dot and helps in his sometimes bumbling way to catch the crooks.

The remainder of the regular actors and episode guests all do a sterling job and contribute wonderfully to the mystery covered by each episode. All manner of stories and themes are covered, reminding us that people are the same and driven by the same passions, motives and emotions whatever the place and time in history. Drugs, human trafficking, greed, jealousy, love, ambition, social inequality, are all considered and Miss Fisher as pioneer feminist does a great deal to not only solve the mysteries but advance the rights of women and help the disenfranchised and browbeaten claim their place in the sun. There are also interesting references to World War I and the Anzacs (Cec and Bert being diggers themselves).

We recommend this excellent series to people who not only love whodunnits, but also aficionados of period drama, humorous series and of course good Australian productions.

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