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Death at Victoria Dock: 09/19/16

Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood

Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood is the fourth of the Phryne Fisher mysteries and the fourth as well in the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries television series (having swapped places with The Green Mill Murder).

The books always seem to have two mysteries: one domestic and one criminal. Phryne is usually hired by a woman to solve a case closely tied to her home or her place of work. The mystery is usually along the lines of a missing, injured, or ill person. Meanwhile, she usually through her personal exploits, gets involved in something nefarious: quite typically a death that ends up being a murder.

In the television series, these two mysteries are painfully forced together into one over arching plot making it so that Phryne only manages to solve the criminal case because of her intimate knowledge of the domestic case. This turns historical fiction with mystery trappings into a very stilted cozy where the historical setting is its gimmick. The books though the share the same characters and settings are much different in tone and except for their length, I wouldn't even try to consider them cozies.

Take for instance the opening scene of Death at Victoria Dock.

In the television show Phryne is at the dock at night to have a clandestine meeting with the dock's owner over the disappearance of his daughter. He believes her going missing is directly related to the labor strife the local anarchists are stirring up at the dock. On the way home this notion is born out when Phryne is recognized leaving the office and is shot at. An anarchist protester is caught in the cross fire.

In the book Phryne is by the docks because it is a short cut home. She is driving home late at night because that's when a young liberated woman has her fun. She's a night owl. She likes to drink, dance, and pick up beautiful men. The man shot is running from another man. She stops to help not because she works for his employer but because she horrified at the violence of the act.

It is also this volume that finally introduces Constable Hugh Collins. Here's the thing. He does not work for Detective Jack Robinson. He works for the docks. That is his beat. Here's another big difference, he's just as Catholic as Dot is. This whole idiotic problem with their budding romance over ties to one sect or another is made up for the television series to force some unneeded sexual tension between the two "pure" characters.

Three stars

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