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Murder on the Ballarat Train (Phryne Fisher Series #3)

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Overview

Phryne is giving her red Hispano-Suiza a break: this week she is travelling by train to Ballarat. But what should have been the trip of her dreams, soon turns into the stuff of nightmares. Phryne has to use her Beretta .32 to save her life and that of her traveling companion Dot. And someone has poisoned the other passengers with chloroform.

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Murder on the Ballarat Train: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

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Overview

Phryne is giving her red Hispano-Suiza a break: this week she is travelling by train to Ballarat. But what should have been the trip of her dreams, soon turns into the stuff of nightmares. Phryne has to use her Beretta .32 to save her life and that of her traveling companion Dot. And someone has poisoned the other passengers with chloroform.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
On the train to Ballarat, 1920s Australian feminist flapper and private investigator Phryne Fisher (Flying Too High) wakes up to the smell of chloroform. She saves all her fellow passengers, except an old, cantankerous woman whose body is found at the side of the train tracks. While investigating the murder for the woman's daughter, Phryne also takes in an amnesiac waif on the train who has no knowledge of why she is traveling in the opposite direction of her ticket. Compared with other mysteries, Greenwood's stories are brief, but she holds her own, writing well-thought-out plots starring the intelligent, sexy, liberated, and wealthy Phryne. Greenwood lives in Melbourne, Australia. -Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
Phryne Fisher brings her usual insight, pluck and style to investigating the case of an elderly woman found battered to death in Kerry Greenwood's Murder on the Ballarat Train: A Phyrne Fisher Mystery. Greenwood effortlessly matches her irresistible heroine with a compelling plot. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
MOn the train to Ballarat, 1920s Australian feminist flapper and private investigator Phryne Fisher (Flying Too High) wakes up to the smell of chloroform. She saves all her fellow passengers, except an old, cantankerous woman whose body is found at the side of the train tracks. While investigating the murder for the woman's daughter, Phryne also takes in an amnesiac waif on the train who has no knowledge of why she is traveling in the opposite direction of her ticket. Compared with other mysteries, Greenwood's stories are brief, but she holds her own, writing well-thought-out plots starring the intelligent, sexy, liberated, and wealthy Phryne. Greenwood lives in Melbourne, Australia. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 6/1/06.]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590584057
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2007
  • Series: Phryne Fisher Series , #3
  • Pages: 151
  • Sales rank: 70,897
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Kerry Greenwood is the author of more than 40 novels and six non-fiction books. Among her many honors, Ms. Greenwood has received the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award from the Crime Writers' Association of Australia. When she is not writing she is an advocate in Magistrates' Courts for the Legal Aid Commission. She is not married, has no children and lives with a registered Wizard.

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Read an Excerpt

Murder on the Ballarat Train

A Phryne Fisher Mystery
By Kerry Greenwood

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 1991 Kerry Greenwood
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59058-241-1


Chapter One

There was a beetle sitting next to the goat: (it was a very queer carriage full of passengers altogether)

Alice Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

Fortunately, the Hon. Phryne Fisher was a light sleeper. She had dozed for most of the journey, but when the nauseating odour of chloroform impinged on her senses, she had sufficient presence of mind to realize that something was happening while she still had wits enough to react.

Reaching over the slumbering form of her maid and companion, Dot, she groped for and found her handbag. She dragged it open, moving as though she were five fathoms under water. The clasp of the handbag seemed impossibly complex, and finally, swearing under her breath and gasping for air, she tore it open with her teeth, extracted her Beretta .32 with which she always travelled, and waveringly took aim. She squeezed off a shot that broke the window.

It shattered into a thousand shards, spattering Phryne and Dot with glass, and admitting a great gush of cold air.

Phryne choked, coughed, and staggered to her feet. She hung out of the window until she was quite certain of her sobriety, then hauled the other window open. The train was still moving. Smoke blew back into her face. What was happening? Phryne reached into the picnic basket, found the bottle of cold tea, and took a refreshing swig. Dot was out to the world, slumped over her travelling bag, her long hair coming loose from its plait. Phryne listened carefully at her maid's mouth, with a cold fear in her heart. But Dot was breathing regularly and seemed only to be deeply asleep.

Phryne wet her handkerchief with the remains of the cold tea and opened the door of the compartment. A wave of chloroform struck her, and she had to duck back into her compartment, take a deep breath and hold it, before running into the corridor, tearing open a window and leaning through it. There was not a sound on the train; not a noise of human occupancy. She sucked in a breath and rushed to the next window, repeating the procedure until all the windows were as wide open as the railways allowed.

There were four compartments in this first-class carriage. She had noticed the occupants as she had sauntered along before supper; an elderly lady and her companion in the first, a harassed woman and three diabolical children in the second, and a young couple in the third. Phryne and Dot had occupied the fourth, and that probably explained their relative immunity, as the smell got thicker and harder to bear as Phryne neared the front of the train.

The engine halted; she heard the whistle, and an odd bumping noise at the front of the first-class carriage. There was a rush of steam, and the train began to move again, almost precipitating Phryne onto her knees, as she was still rather shaky. Still coughing and retching, she opened the window of the young couple, then the mother and the children. Finally she approached the first compartment, and the smell was strong enough to sting her eyes. She applied the wet handkerchief again, staining her face with tea, dived in and stood staring.

The companion lay flat on the floor with a spilt cup by her hand, but the window was already open and the old lady was gone.

Phryne then did something that she had always wanted to do. She pulled the communication cord as hard as she could.

The train screeched to a satisfying halt, and a porter came running, slapping open the door to the dining-car and immediately beginning to cough.

'Did you pull that cord, Miss?' he asked. 'For the love of Mike, what's been happening here?'

'Chloroform,' said Phryne. 'Help me get them out into the fresh air.'

The porter shouted, and several more liveried men crowded into the carriage, before they began to choke and tried to run out again.

'Idiots!' gasped Phryne. 'Put a wet hanky over your silly faces and come and help me.'

'I'll handle it, Miss,' said one rather tall and charming conductor. 'You'd better come out too, until it clears a little. Give me your hand, Miss, and down we go.' Phryne, who was feeling very unwell, allowed herself to be carried down the step and off the siding. She sat down unsteadily in cold wet grass and was delighted with the sensation. It seemed more real than the hot, thick darkness of the train.

The tall conductor laid Dot down beside Phryne, and the old woman's companion beside her. Dot turned over in deep sleep, her face against Phryne's neck, sniffed, croaked 'Nuit D'Amour', sneezed, and woke up.

'Lie still, Dot dear, we've had a strange experience. We are quite all right, and will be even better in a minute. Ah. Someone with sense.'

Phryne accepted a cup of hot, sugared tea from an intelligent steward and held it to Dot's lips.

'Here you are, old dear, take a few sips and you'll be as right as rain.'

'Oh, Miss, I feel that sick! Did I faint?' Dot supped some more tea, and recovered enough to sit up and take the cup.

'In a way, Dot, we all did. Someone, for some unknown reason, has chloroformed us. We were in the end carriage and thus we inhaled the slightest dose, though it was quite enough, as I'm sure you will agree. And when I get hold of the person who has done this,' continued Phryne, gulping her tea and getting to her feet, 'they will be sorry that they were ever born. All right now, Dot? I mean, all right to be left? I want to scout around a bit.'

'All right, Miss,' agreed Dot, and lay down in the dank grass, wishing that her head would stop swimming.

The train had come to a halt in utter darkness somewhere on the way to Ballarat. All around the pastures were flat, cold, and wet; it was the middle of winter. She regained the train as the guards were carrying out the last of the children, a limp and pitiful bundle.

'Well, this wasn't on the timetable!' she exclaimed to the nearest conductor. 'What happened? And who caused it to happen?'

'I thought that you might have seen something, Miss, since you were the only one awake. Though you seem to have caught a fair lungful of the stuff,' he added. 'You sure that you feel quite the thing, Miss?'

Phryne caught at the proffered arm thankfully.

'I'm quite all right, just a little wobbly in the under-pinnings. What are we going to do?'

'Well, Miss, the train-conductor thinks that we'd better put everyone on board as soon as they have recovered a bit and take the train on to the next town. There's a policeman there and they can send for a doctor. Some of them kids are in a bad way.'

'Yes, I expect that will be the best plan. I'll go and see if I can help. Give me an arm, will you? Do you know any artificial respiration?'

'Yes, Miss,' said the middle-aged man, glancing admiringly at the white face under the cloche hat. 'I learned it for lifesaving.'

'Come on, then, we've got lives to save. The children and the pregnant woman are the main risks.'

Phryne found, on examination, that the youngest child, a particularly devilish three year old on whom she had been wishing death all day was the worst affected. His face was flushed, and there seemed to be no breath in the little body. She caught the child up in her arms and squeezed him gently.

'Breathe, little monster,' she admonished him, 'and you shall dance on all my hats, and push Dot's shoes out the window. Breathe, pest, or I shall never forgive myself. Come on, child, breathe!'

In, out, the chest rose and fell. The child gulped air, choked, fell silent again, as Phryne jogged his chest and he dragged in another breath, with nerve-racking intervals in which she heard the other passengers groaning awake. The pregnant woman was retching violently, and abjuring her comatose husband to awake. A small hand clutched Phryne painfully by the nose and the child's strong legs flexed and kicked. The whole child seemed to gather himself for some final effort. Phryne held her breath. Was this a death tremor? Johnnie took his first independent breath.

'Waaaah!' he screamed, and Phryne began to laugh.

'Here, you take him,' she said to the nearest guard. 'But be careful, he'll be sick in a moment.'

The guard was a family man, and took the resultant mess philosophically. They were all awake now; the woman and the children, the pregnant lady and her husband, and Dot. All except the companion to the elderly lady, and she was burned about the nose and mouth and very deeply drugged, though her heart pounded strongly under Phryne's hand.

'All back on the train,' ordered the conductor. 'This way, ladies and gentlemen, and we'll soon have you comfortable. This is some sort of silly joke, and the Railways will be responsible for any damages. Might I offer you a hand, Miss er ...'

'Fisher. The Hon. Phryne Fisher,' said Phryne, allowing herself to lean on the arm. 'I really am not feeling at all well. How long to Ballan?'

'About ten minutes, Miss, if you'll excuse the guard's van, there being no room in the rest of the train.'

Phryne and Dot sat side by side on the floor, next to a chained dog and a cage full of sleepy chickens. The lady-companion was laid beside them, and the rest of the first-class passengers sat around the walls, surveying each other with discomfort.

'I say, old girl, you look as if you'd been pulled through the hedge backwards,' opined the young husband in a feeble attempt at humour, and his pregnant lady rocketed into hysteria.

It took Phryne the ten minutes to Ballan to induce in the lady a reasonable frame of mind, and at the end of it Phryne was a rag.

'If you have anything else to say that you think is funny, I'll thank you to keep it to yourself,' she snarled at the husband, catching him a nasty accidental-on-purpose crack on the shins. 'I've got other things to do than calm the heeby-jeebies. Now we are at Ballan, Dot, I hope that we can get to the overnight things, for we really must have a hot bath and a change of clothes, or we shall catch our death.'

'There's a hotel in Ballan,' said the mother, catching little Johnnie as, much recovered, he poked his fingers in among the chickens, 'Come away, Johnnie, do!'

'The Railways can pay for it, then,' suggested the young man, with a wary eye on Phryne. 'I haven't got the cash for an overnight stay.'

'I can advance you enough,' said Phryne. 'Not to worry. Here comes our nice conductor to release us from durance fairly vile.'

The conductor had clearly done wonders in a very short time.

'If the ladies and gentlemen would care to break their journey for awhile, they may like to bathe and change at the hotel,' he suggested. 'The guards will bring your baggage. The hotel is about a hundred yards down the street, and we will carry the sick lady.'

Phryne took one child, Dot another, and they trailed wearily down the road to the Ballan Hotel, a guesthouse of some pretension. They were met at the door by a plump and distressed landlady who exclaimed over their condition and took charge of the children.

'Room two, ladies, there's a bath all ready for you. I'll send the man with the baggage when he arrives. I shall have tea ready directly, and I've sent for the doctor, he should be here soon.'

Dot and Phryne gained their room and Phryne began to strip off her wet garments. Dot located the bath, and gestured to it.

'You first—you were worse affected,' insisted Phryne, and Dot recognized inflexibility when she saw it. She took off her clothes in the bathroom and sank into the tub, feeling the aching cold ease out of her bones. She heard the door open and close as she lay back and shut her eyes, and presently there was Phryne's voice.

'Come on, old dear, you don't want to fall asleep again! I've got the clothes and I've got some tea.'

'In a minute,' promised Dot, and exchanged places with her mistress.

They were dressed in clean clothes and thoroughly warmed when the conductor returned to advise them that the chloroform vapour was all gone and they could resume their journey, if they liked. Phryne was ready to go, and was called in to rouse the companion of the elderly lady.

The woman was much scorched or scalded about the nose and mouth, and the doctor seemed worried about her. She had not begun to rouse until the injection of camphor had been made. Then she opened her eyes all of a sudden, and hearing Phryne's voice, asked, 'Where's Mother?'

And Mother was gone.

After that, there was no further chance of getting to Ballarat, and Phryne turned to the landlady.

'There was another lady on the train, and she has definitely gone. We must call the police—perhaps she fell out the window. Is there a police station in Ballan?'

'Yes, Miss, I'll send the boy around now. What a terrible thing! We'll have to rouse out some of the men to go searching.'

'Dot, are you better?' asked Phryne of her maid.

Dot replied, 'I'm still a bit woozy, Miss. What do you want me to do?'

'Go and make some tea.'

'I can manage that,' agreed Dot, and went out. The doctor was applying a soothing cream to the stricken woman's face.

'What burned her? Chloroform?' asked Phryne, as she took the jar out of the doctor's insecure hold and held it out for him to dip into. 'Does it burn like that?'

'Certainly. She has had a chloroform soaked cloth laid over her face, and if you hadn't woken them all up and got her out of the train, she would now be dead, and even so there may be permanent damage to her liver.'

'What about the rest of us? Would we have all been affected just by the chloroform in the first compartment?'

'No. The gas is heavy, much heavier than air, and very volatile. Someone must have poured it into the ventilation system. Someone wanted you all asleep, Miss Fisher, but I have no idea why. There now, you may stopper the jar. Poor woman, a nasty awakening, but she's slumped back into sleep again. Can you watch her for an hour? I should go and see how those children are getting along.'

'By all means,' agreed Phryne, her conscience still tender in the matter of little Johnnie. 'I'll stay here. If she wakes, can I give her tea?'

'If she wakes, Miss Fisher, you can give her anything you like,' said the doctor, and hefted his black bag in the direction of the children's room.

An hour later, at three in the morning, the woman awoke. Phryne saw her stir and mutter, and lifted her to moisten her lips with water.

'What happened? Where's Mother?' came the cracked voice, prevented only by bodily weakness from shrieking.

'Hush, hush now, you're safe, and they are out looking for your mother.'

'Who are you?' asked the woman dazedly. She saw Phryne's expensive dressing-gown, edged in fox fur, her Russian leather boots of rusty hue, and an aloof, pale, delicate face, framed in neat, short black hair and with penetrating green eyes. Next to this vision of modish loveliness was a plain young woman with plaits, dressed in a chenille gown like a bedspread.

'I'm Phryne Fisher and this is Dot Williams, my companion. Who are you?'

'Eunice Henderson,' murmured the woman. 'Pleased to meet you. Where is Mother? What is happening? And what's wrong with me? I can't have fainted. I never faint.'

'No, you didn't faint. We are in the Ballan hotel. Someone chloroformed us—the whole first-class carriage. I knew that I should have motored to Ballarat, but I do like trains, though I'm rapidly going off them at the moment. Luckily, I was in the last compartment, and I am a very light sleeper. I broke the window, and then opened all the others and dragged everyone out. You I found lying on the floor of the compartment, with a spilt glass near your hand, and there was no one else there, I can assure you. The window was open—could she have fallen out?'

'I suppose so—she is a thin little thing, Mother. I can't remember much. I was asleep, then I heard this thump, and I felt ever so ill, so I got up to get some water, and... That's all I can recall.'

'Well, never mind for the moment. There's nothing we can do until the searchers come back. They have roused the railway-men and they've all gone walking back along the track. They'll find her if she is there. Why not go back to sleep? I'll wake you if anything happens.'

Eunice Henderson closed her eyes.

'Miss, she must have been the Eunice that the old lady was nagging all the time on the train,' whispered Dot, and Phryne nodded. The journey had been made unpleasant not only by the children, but also by an old woman's partially deaf whine in the forward compartment, as unceasing as a stream and as irritating as the mosquito which had caused Phryne's sleep to be so light. She had reflected during the journey that the mosquito was the lesser hazard, because it could be silenced with a vigorous puff of Flit.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood Copyright © 1991 by Kerry Greenwood. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Exciting who-done-it

    In Australia, the Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher is on the train to Ballaret to visit some cousins when she wakes up in her compartment to the smell of chloroform. She starts opening the window reviving herself and her maid Dot. They open the windows in the other three compartments in first class. One elderly woman, Mrs. Henderson is missing until her body is found thirty feet from the track.------------- Her daughter Eunice hires Phryrne to find out who killed her mother. Another mystery on the train presents itself in the form of a young child suffering from amnesia. Phryrne calls her Jane and takes her home with her and has her examined by her doctor who tells her the child was sexually molested. Phryrne is determined to find out who did this to the child and who killed Mrs. Henderson because of her reputation, she has the full support of the Melbourne police who are in awe of the indomitable Miss Fisher.--------------- In chronological order, the third Phryne Fisher mystery is as exciting as the rest of the books in this fabulous series. Taking place inin Australia in the 1920¿s where women are gaining more freedom, the heroine is in the forefront of the equality under the law movement. She is independent, stubborn and generous to those she cares about. The killer hides in plane sight and for a time, much to Phryrne¿s chagrin, fools the intrepid heroine.------------ Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2014

    Fun murder mystery series.

    I first watched all of the programs on Netflix. Then searched Nook for books. I was delighted to find the books. As always, the books are even better than the films! I am going frim the first book in the system and am going on to the next. Can hardly wait until the next one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2014

    |The Original Pact Clan Introduction|

    A light gr

    |The Original Pact Clan Introduction| <br />

    <br />

    A light gray tabby shecat pads in and announces, &quot;Hello everyone. First off thank you for listening. Now I want to ask you a question. Do you feel as though the nook clans are actually like the books? I mean when you think about it, there are not many wars, borders, gatherings, medicine cat meetings, or a true Starclan or Dark Forest. The problem? Too many clans. It's simply impossible for these things to occur on a regular basis when new clans are made constantly and then die soon afterward. I'm not here to preach about how we should combine clans or anything like that. It wouldn't work. But I am here to invite you to join a system of clans that will actually be like the books. Horseclan (Windclan), Sandclan (Riverclan), Ashclan (Thunderclan), Northclan (Shadowclan), and Rainclan (Skyclan) have made a pact to join together and rp only with each other. There are set dates for gatherings and medicine cat meetings (they alternate every Sunday and are all day events), borders, drama that can lead to wars, seasons (which you get to vote on as well as battles), and even a Starclan and Dark Forest for only THOSE clans' ancestors! We even have our own Pact Code! Sound interesting? Well you have a chance to join us! But before I tell you how to join, let me make the following things very clear: <br />

    <br />

    1. The pact clans idea was made by myself but I could not do this without the cooperation of everyone in this system. Everyone has been doing a great job making this work! There have been some other attempted pact clans. I try to work things out with them. But Horseclan, Sandclan, Ashclan, Northclan, and Rainclan are the originals. Please be respectful of all the time we have put into making this system and either join the pact clans or leave us be (this includes Bloodclan). The pact clan's goal is to create a place where anyone can rp like the warrior books! This cannot happen if people decide to copy this idea elsewhere. So please join the oringinal system and help make it fun for everyone! <br />

    <br />

    2. There are only to be 5 clans, a tribe, Pandemonium, and a possible rogue group in the pact clans system. These positions are filled so no other groups may join. If one of the current groups dies out, then and only then, will we consider adding a new group. <br />

    <br />

    3. NO ONE has the right to disrupt pact clan affairs and if you do you will first be kindly asked to leave and then ignored. This is a realistic rp and we do not accept godmodding or powers. This includes any talking creature apart from cats, wings, shapeshifting, super powers, random dumb behavior.... We are based on the books so anything impossible in the books is impossible in the pact clans. <br />

    <br />

    4. Please be as active as possible and if you plan on rping more than one cat, I encourage you to rp one in each clan instead of rping multiple in one. <br />

    <br />

    Remember these guidelines and we will get along great! Learn more important information by reading The Great Pact Code before you ask to join! Please do not post in this book. Thank you! With your help, we can make this system great! I hope to see you in one of the pact clans soon! May Starclan light your path!&quot; <br />

    <br />

    ~ The Original Pact Clan Introduction: Lilywolf, Original Pact Clan Organizer. <br />

    <br />

    PLEASE DO NOT POST HERE! THANK YOU!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2014

    Lilywolf (Read The Above!)

    All new members must read The Original Pact Clan Introduction. Don't mind me. I just had to test that these results actually work. I'm on my nook right now and the above is from the computer. Anyways read away! And remember, DO NOT POST HERE! Thanks! ~ Lilywolf &hearts

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  • Posted September 20, 2013

    Fun, easy read

    This is the third book in the Phryne Fisher series. The books are fun and easy to read. Phryne is quite a character and you will enjoy her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2013

    interesting historical mystery regional combo

    Usual read about outback not city the series is on public tv but does not always follow books as the miss fisher mysteries the supporting cast developes with each book and adds color snd weight to stories a good read page counter

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  • Posted April 26, 2013

    Love it Easy to read the book flows

    Love it Easy to read the book flows

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