I began at the beginning, of course, with the first three Miss Fisher mysteries: Cocaine Blues, Flying Too High, and Murder on the Ballarat Train, all three wisely packaged together as Introducing the Honourable Phrye Fisher.
Unlike most books, these work so much better on screen, which is not something I often believe, and I don't think I'm being influenced by having seen the TV show first. For one, the show wisely smoothes out some of the bumps and unnecessary complications of the books, which makes the mystery more straightforward. Kerry Greenwood, the author, tends to throw in lots of plot on top of more plot on top of more suspects on top of some more clues, and the whole thing eventually starts to resemble what happens to a long necklace when you let it sit in a pile--a big mess of tangles.
For another, one of the great pleasures of the show is Phryne's amazing clothes and jewelry. Did I mention that the stories are set in Melbourne in the 1920s? And Phryne is stinking rich and has a wardrobe that could make the gals on Downton Abbey jealous? Although their are lengthy descriptions of her clothes and accessories in the books, reading about them is boring. Seeing them is heaven.
And for last, the TV show wisely changes the character of the police detective Phryne works with. In the book, he's a friendly, dull fellow with a wife and kids and probably a stamp collection and a nice dog. In the book, he's a steamy, dreamy guy with an ex-wife and a rivalry with that becomes a fascination for Phryne. In three seasons they've managed to kiss, but I have high hopes for season four. After all, even Sam and Diane got it on by the end of season one.
|Jack Robinson and the Honorable Phryne Fisher|
The other characters in the show are here (except for Phryne's stuffy Aunt Prudence, who's another reason to prefer the show): companion Dot (although she doesn't have a beau), ward Jane, all-round assistants and commie cabbies Bert and Cec, female physician Mack (although she's young and attractive in the show), even Mr. Butler (although in the books, there's a Mrs. Butler). There's a clearer explanation of how Phryne become "the Honorable" and got all her dough, why she ended up in Melbourne to begin with, and how she got her unusual name.
But overall, the books don't hold a candle to the show, although I may read another one or two while I wait, impatiently, for Phryne to return to the screen.