Kerry Greenwood, Author . Poisoned Pen $24.95 (257p) ISBN 978-1-59058-042-4

Set in the 1920s, Australian author Greenwood's U.S. debut introduces the engaging Phryne Fisher, an independent, unconventional PI whose competence and unflappability call to mind Dorothy Sayers's Harriet Vane. Fisher is confronted with two puzzles to unravel—the disappearance of a young woman set to marry a much older man and the strange deaths of two ex-soldiers that have been officially judged accidental. A couple of the dead men's surviving mates, Bert and Cec, seek Fisher's help, and she employs her varied army of allies to ascertain whether the troops shared some information that was dangerous to someone now bent on wiping them all out. When clues point to a shared experience in Paris during WWI, the ghosts of an old but lingering trauma from Fisher's early love life reawaken with a vengeance. Greenwood's language is almost Wodehousian at some points, and she surrounds her sleuth with a diverse supporting cast, including her prudish butler, her Chinese lover and an accommodating police inspector who knows when to look the other way. While the narrative's prime twist stems from an artificial device, and the main villain's identity is too obvious, the charm of the setting and the characters more than compensates. (June 21)

FYI: Poisoned Pen plans to publish the 13 other books in the series. Greenwood recently won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Australian Crime Writers Association.

Reviewed on: 05/03/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
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