Flying Too High is second in the Phryne Fisher Series and it stays true to form. It’s in the same style as Cocaine Blues but it doesn’t feel repetitive (yet).
In this book, Phryne has to deal with two major crimes, the kidnapping of a child and what appears to be a pre-meditated murder of a father. Neither of which are unique crimes but in a genre as over-saturated and over-developed as crime fiction, it’s not so much the crime itself that catches people’s attention but the way it is written and the process of solving it, and in this case, Kerry Greenwood certainly knows what she’s doing. There’s an underlying genuineness in the crime writing and that’s the real charm to Phryne Fisher.
There are some really unique characters. Though the tyrannical father is standard, and the philandering artist is almost a cliché, the real stand out was the lesbian prostitute who caters to clients with paedophilia tastes due to her physically underdeveloped body. That took me by surprise as it can be tricky to introduce unsavoury characters without looking impractical; all of Kerry Greenwood’s experience in the legal system is really being shown off.
Phryne is clever but realistic. Although she is gutsy and well-educated in a variety of areas, she doesn’t know everything nor does she pretend to. She readily seeks help in areas that she’s unfamiliar with and delegates without any dent to her ego. This allows Kerry to introduce a whole host of colourful characters that she takes with her from novel to novel. For example, when Phryne needed to track down key witnesses in her murder case, she asks the cab drivers that she met in her last adventure.
And there are some real homages to the detectives before her that even Phryne herself acknowledges through the leaning of the fourth wall. The house purchased by her is at 221B; it was specifically chosen by Phryne because it was at 221 (and Phryne herself adds the B at the end, in keeping with her penchant for a dramatic flair). And she also accepts the ridiculousness and the impractical financial viability of her profession, which is only offset by the fact that she’s already very well-off.
Phryne is charmingly described as “vain, promiscuous and vague” and her habit of sleeping with the first beautiful man that catches her fancy is a delightful change in pace. Sometimes, when authors try to show the toughness in their female characters by having them sleep around, there’s a slight self-loathing and lonely undertone in their actions. There is none in Phryne, who embraces her femininity and rejoices in her man-eating behaviour.
The ending is tied up in a neat package (and it’s done literally and figuratively since Phryne wraps up the Bad Guy of the Week to the police in brown wrapping paper). The tyrannical father is killed off in a very karma inducing manner and the more reluctant child kidnapper is protected by Phryne with the provision of a reliable alibi, demonstrating that the road to justice is paved in grey morality.
I’m so excited for this series, this really is something I can invest myself in. I’ll try to find them in second-hand stores, but I honest to God don’t mind paying full price for them.
On Another Note
I’m debating if I should really write a review for every Phryne Fisher book and any other book that’s in a series, like No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency or Inspector Singh series. They get the same-ish (which isn’t a bad thing, all series eventually run the same path) after a while and I run out of things to discuss.