Queen of the Flowers (Phryne Fisher Series #14)

Queen of the Flowers (Phryne Fisher Series #14)

4.8 13
by Kerry Greenwood
     
 

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St. Kildas streets hang with fairy lights. Tea dances, tango competitions, lifesaving demonstrations, lantern shows, and picnics on the beach are all part of the towns first Flower Parade. And who should be Queen of the Flowers but the Honourable Phryne Fisher? It seems that the lovely Phryne has nothing to do but buy dresses, drink cocktails, and dine in lavish

Overview

St. Kildas streets hang with fairy lights. Tea dances, tango competitions, lifesaving demonstrations, lantern shows, and picnics on the beach are all part of the towns first Flower Parade. And who should be Queen of the Flowers but the Honourable Phryne Fisher? It seems that the lovely Phryne has nothing to do but buy dresses, drink cocktails, and dine in lavish restaurants. Unfortunately, disappearances during this joyous festival aren’t limited to the magic shows. One of Phryne’s flower maidens has simply vanished. And so, Phryne is off to investigate aided by Bert and Cec and her trusty little Beretta. When her darling adopted daughter Ruth goes missing, Phryne is determined that nothing will stand in the way of her investigation. Phryne must confront elephants, brothel-life, and perhaps worst of all an old lover in an effort to save Ruth and her flower maiden before it is too late. Queen of the Flowers is the fourteenth book in the Phryne Fisher series, with no sign of Ms. Fisher hanging up her pearl-handled pistol yet.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Australia, 1928. Phryne Fisher, the flamboyant flapper and amateur sleuth, has been chosen to be Queen of the Flowers for this year’s Flower Parade. But, as loyal readers of this long-running series know, Phryne can’t seem to do anything without landing herself in the midst of a mystery...This is a consistently strong series that shows no signs of running out of steam.” —Booklist of Queen of the Flowers
 
 
“Crime strikes close to home in this latest installment of Greenwood's charming series (The Castlemaine Murders, etc.) featuring 1920s Aussie amateur sleuth, Phryne Fisher…The engaging cast of familiar supporting characters—including Phryne's maid, Dot, and her Chinese lover, Lin Chung—will delight longtime fans, but newcomers who like their crime on the lighter side can jump in without any trouble.” –Publishers Weekly of Queen of the Flowers

Publishers Weekly

Crime strikes close to home in this latest installment of Greenwood's charming series (The Castlemaine Murders, etc.) featuring 1920s Aussie amateur sleuth, Phryne Fisher. While the town of St. Kilda prepares for the 1928 Flower Parade, Phryne's adopted daughter, Ruth, disappears after learning her father's identity from her birthmother, Anna Ross. Phryne adds Ruth to her caseload, which coincidentally includes the search for another missing young woman, Rose Weston. As with other series entries, the solution to the mystery is secondary to the author's clever prose and gift for characterization. Phryne carries the action ably, even if her resourcefulness and unflappability sometimes border on the superhuman. The engaging cast of familiar supporting characters-including Phryne's maid, Dot, and her Chinese lover, Lin Chung-will delight longtime fans, but newcomers who like their crime on the lighter side can jump in without any trouble. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

As Queen of the Flowers, Phryne Fisher (The Castlemaine Murders) is knee deep in preparations for St. Kilda's inaugral Flower Parade when one of her young flower maidens disappears. She is hired to find the girl, but then Phryne's adopted daughter vanishes. Phryne, never one to sit back and take it, swings into high gear, searching the red light district of St. Kilda with the aid of her friends. Although as sophisticated, wealthy, and modern as ever, Greenwood's series protagonist still demonstrates her decency, kindness, and willingness to fight against the sinister elements in her Australian community. For series fans. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ3/1/08.]


—Jo Ann Vicarel
Kirkus Reviews
Soignee Australian socialite detective Phryne Fisher tracks not one but two missing girls. Phryne has been appointed Queen of the Flowers for St. Kilda's flower parade and festival. Her four flower maidens are young woman of disparate temperament, and it takes all of Phryne's considerable skills to keep them in line. Rose Weston, from an old but mysterious background, appears to be living rather a fast life for a young girl of good family in 1928 Melbourne. At the same time, Phryne's adopted daughter Ruth returns from a visit to the sanatorium, where her birth mother is dying of tuberculosis, with new interest in the identity of her father. A traveling circus camping near Phryne's beachfront home brings her together with an old friend, elephant trainer Dulcie Fanshawe, and one of her many past lovers, James Murray of Orkney. When Rose goes missing, Phryne is hired by a friend of Rose's miserly grandfather to find her. In addition, she must hunt for Ruth, who seems to have run off. Friends and lovers past and present all have their parts to play as Phryne makes alternately pleasing and horrifying discoveries in her search for the missing young ladies. By no means the best of Phryne's long string of period mysteries (Death Before Wicket, 2008, etc.), but the delightfully outre heroine is always a pleasure to revisit.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590586013
Publisher:
Poisoned Pen Press
Publication date:
03/10/2009
Series:
Phryne Fisher Series , #14
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
249
Sales rank:
69,183
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Queen of the Flowers

A Phryne Fisher Mystery


By Kerry Greenwood

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2012 Kerry Greenwood
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59058-601-3


CHAPTER 1

And how Horatius held the bridge In the brave days of yore.

Thomas Babbington, Lord Macauley 'Horatius',

Lays of Ancient Rome


The elephant was the last straw.

All day Mr. Butler, strangely resembling Cerberus except for the number of heads, had kept the world at bay. The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher was engaged in a solemn ritual and all visitors were to be refused, all tradesmen redirected and all trespassers prosecuted. The bell was not to ring and disturb the votaries' concentration. A holy hush must be maintained.

The household had been dispersed for this special occasion. Miss Ruth and Miss Jane had been banished to the moving pictures to see an improving newsreel and a cowboy adventure, have lunch at a suitable café and spend the afternoon blamelessly at the museum. The dog Molly had been muzzled with the femur of what must have been an ox, or possibly a mammoth. Mrs. Butler had put on her good coat and gone hat shopping in the city, leaving a cold collation under a mist of muslin on the dining room table. Dorothy, Miss Phryne's maid and inseparable companion, had naturally joined the rites in attendance, as had the cat Ember. Three times Dot had crept down the stairs to tell Mr. Butler that so far it was all going well.

And Mr. Butler had kept the door, valiantly turning aside three hawkers (of infallible washing powders, fly repellents and an ingenious new form of mouse-trap), seven society visitors and a worried representative from the mayor's office, calling about another minor detail in the forthcoming Flower Parade. All of these he had awed into leaving cards and departing quietly, closing the gate silently behind them. He was just allowing himself to lean a little into the porch, mopping his brow and wondering how long this could possibly go on, when an elephant stepped easily over the front fence and stood face to face with him.

It was surprisingly large. It had small, wise eyes set into deep wrinkles and for a moment Mr. Butler and the elephant stared at each other without moving or reacting. Mr. Butler was so astonished that he could not think of anything to say except 'Shoo!' and he did not think that wise, in view of the newly planted dahlias.

They stood there, an interesting tableau out of an Anglo-Indian painting. Then the elephant, obviously feeling that the first move in this new friendship was up to her, lifted her trunk and gently took the handkerchief out of Mr. Butler's nerveless hand. She patted delicately at his brow and made a small, absurd squeaking noise. It sounded sympathetic.

'Thank you,' said Mr. Butler, a broken man.

'Phryne in?' enquired a voice, and Mr. Butler looked up into the eyes of a raddled, middle-aged woman with fiery red hair, seated astride the elephant's neck. 'Flossie's taken to you, I see. She's the nicest elephant I've ever had, I'll say that for her.'

Mr. Butler gathered what wits he had left. 'Miss Fisher is engaged,' he said. 'She is not at home to visitors today.'

'Too bad,' said the woman. 'I'm Dulcie Fanshawe of Fanshawe's elephants. Well, you might have guessed, eh? Any chance of a bucket of water for Flossie? And a cup of tea for me? We've just got off the train and they're still setting up down by the beach.'

'If you can keep your animal ... er ... Flossie, quiet, madam, that can be arranged,' said Mr. Butler. Miss Dulcie Fanshawe's hair was definitely artificial and her trousers were scandalous but she had a genuine, charming smile. And Miss Phryne would never turn aside a person or even an elephant in need of sustenance.

'She won't give trouble,' said Dulcie. 'Elephants are very quiet beasts.'

'Just walk her along to the back, then,' said Mr. Butler. 'The kitchen door is open. I have to keep the door until Miss Fisher's at liberty to receive guests.'

'What is she doing?' asked Miss Fanshawe, permitting Flossie to lift her down and taking hold of one large, flapping ear.

Mr. Butler told her. Miss Fanshawe grinned. 'How long has she been at it, then?' she asked.

'Since nine this morning.' Mr. Butler finally did allow himself to lean into the porch and Flossie mopped his brow again. He observed the delicate, fingered ends of her trunk and the fine control she had over her grasp. She smelt strongly of hay.

'Lord, you poor man! Now, Floss, give the nice man back his hankie and we'll get you a drink.'

Flossie returned Mr. Butler's handkerchief, gave his hair a light caress, and followed Miss Fanshawe around the side of the house to the kitchen.

Mr. Butler resumed his vigil. Time was elapsing. The cold collation had been eaten on the run, standing, while discussing and arguing. The girls would be back soon, as would Mrs. Butler, who would need to get the dinner started and show Mr. Butler her new hat. Miss Phryne had better get a wriggle on or she was going to have disturbances which Mr. Butler could not prevent.

Just then he remembered that Molly and her dinosaur bone were in the back garden. How, he wondered, would the black and white mongrel react to Flossie?

Nothing he could do about it from here, he thought, and at last heard the long-anticipated sounds of women reassuming coats, putting on hats, packing up, and chattering their way down the hall to his closely guarded door. At last. He felt like a sentry who had been relieved of his post long after he had assumed himself forgotten.

The rite was concluded. Miss Fisher's new dress had been fitted. Mr. Butler bowed out Madame Fleuri, a grim devotee of the mode, her two assistants and her three seamstresses. Miss Fisher and Dot waved them goodbye.

And Mr. Butler shut the front door just as Molly, waking from a deep post-prandial nap in the asparagus bed, encountered her first elephant and entirely lost her poise. Howling, she fled into the house and dived under Miss Fisher's chair. After a while a small black nose stuck out from under the fringe, quivering.

Miss Phryne Fisher was dressed in a bright red house gown. She had put it on and taken it off eighteen times. She had listened to long lectures about fashion and stood unmoving as swatches of cloth were draped, pinned, whipped off and on and pinned again. For seven hours. She had gulped down her lunch and was feeling hungry, thirsty and frayed. She did not need an irruption of hysterical dogs into her now-quiet house.

'Molly?' asked Phryne wearily. 'What is the matter?'

'I think it was meeting Flossie,' said Miss Fanshawe, escorted in by Mr. Butler. All the circus dogs are used to elephants, I'd forgotten how a nice urban dog might react. Sorry to drop in on you like this when you've had such an exhausting day, Phryne, but I came looking for a drink for Flossie and remembered that you lived here.'

'Dulcie Fanshawe!' Phryne jumped up. Molly declined to move. Until someone came up with a reasonable explanation for elephants, she was staying where she was. 'Come in, sit down, have a drink, how are you? I haven't seen you since London!'

'Can't stop,' said Miss Fanshawe. 'Come and meet Flossie. I can't leave her in that pretty little garden for long. Far too many edible plants.'

Phryne followed Dulcie to the garden and found that Flossie had not fancied any of the vegetation on offer but was sucking up a lot of water from a bucket, continuously replenished with the hose.

'I took her for a little constitutional down by the sea and she would keep tasting the foam,' explained Dulcie Fanshawe. 'Too much salt is very bad for elephants and they're setting up the show right by the sea, on the sand. There,' she said to the gurgling elephant, 'that feels better, I'll warrant. Poor old Floss! I bought her from a frightful little road show—filthy place—where they kept her chained all the time. See the scars around her ankles? She was dying from pneumonia and neglect and loneliness and I got her for a song and a threat to report the owner to the RSPCA. I reported him anyway. If I'd had my way we would have chained him by the leg in filthy straw for a few months to see how he liked it. Horrible man. Then I sat up with Flossie for a week until she started to recover and she took to Rani and Kali right away. But she's the nicest elephant I've ever met. And the worst treated. Humans.'

'I know, as a species we have nothing to recommend ourselves. How did you end up in Australia?' asked Phryne.

'Well, with the three elephants I had a show, and we were something of a hit,' said Miss Fanshawe modestly. 'And none of us like the cold. Flossie's got a weak chest, poor girl. So we took Wirth up on his offer and came out here. Nice place,' she said. 'Kali likes the beer and I like the climate.'

Mr. Butler brought a tray of drinks into the garden. Flossie squeaked her pleasure at renewing their acquaintance and he unbent far enough to pat her trunk.

'A refreshing cocktail, Miss Fisher,' he said. 'In view of the day we have all had.'

Phryne sipped. 'Oh, lovely,' she said. It tasted of cherries. A bubbly, delicate, utterly refreshing mouthful of spring.

Miss Fanshawe took a deep gulp, blinked and said, 'Oh my! That's enough to make you want to go out and get all hot and tired over again!'

Mr. Butler withdrew, pleased. The lady might not be out of the top drawer but she knew a good cocktail when she drank it. Mrs. Butler had returned with her new hat and was seated at the kitchen table, peeling vegetables for a roast. The adoptive daughters of the house were helping, eating bread and butter to stay their stomachs until dinner. Thin blonde Jane and darker, plumper Ruth, Miss Phryne's strays. Mr. Butler wanted to unbend and he couldn't do it with them there, even though they were good girls and no trouble at all, really.

'Go into the garden,' said Mr. Butler to the two girls. 'There's an elephant.'

They dived for the door without a word.

His new cocktail had gone down well. The day had been long. Mr. Butler sat down, undid his shirt collar, and poured himself a small glass of the butler's infallible restorative, a good port. Mrs. Butler stopped peeling and laid down her potato severely.

'Now, Mr. B, you know it isn't right to fib to the girls,' she reproved. 'Just because you'd rather have their room than their company.'

Mr. Butler gave her a smile which bordered on smug—he had had a very trying day—and said nothing. Mrs. Butler surveyed him closely. They had been married for nearly forty years. She picked up the vegetable peeler again, obscurely worried by that smile. 'There isn't really an elephant in the garden, is there?' pressed Mrs. Butler, peeling industriously.

'Yes, Mrs. B,' he replied, allowing himself another vindicated sip. 'There is.'


* * *

Phryne Fisher looked at her household as they came down to dinner, correctly dressed, clean and shining. A credit to themselves, she thought. Dot in her favourite brown jumper suit. The girls in matching summer dresses. Herself in her red house gown. Ember, who had not twitched a whisker when he sighted an elephant through the kitchen window, slouching elegantly along after Mr. Butler's silver salver, which was redolent of gravy.

Molly, who had been coaxed out from under the chair and assured that the elephant was definitely gone, sitting nervously under the table hoping for titbits. Mr. Butler, restored by port. And dinner.

Phryne had a healthy appetite and the money to indulge it. And lunch had been scanty and hurried. Time to taste a nice Bordeaux and allow the day to fold peacefully to its close.

'Where did you meet Miss Fanshawe?' asked Jane. And did you know that the rock hyrax is the elephant's nearest relative?'

'In London and no,' replied Phryne. 'What is a rock hyrax?'

'It's a little rabbity thing,' said Jane. 'Not at all like an elephant, which is—as we saw—big. And Miss Fanshawe said that Flossie isn't even a very big elephant.'

'She was a special act in a circus I went to see,' said Phryne. 'I have always loved circuses. And I was able to help in a little emergency they had, so they invited me backstage—'

'Hang on,' interrupted Jane. 'What little emergency?'

'It wasn't anything really,' temporised Phryne. Jane looked at her. So did Dot and Ruth. 'Oh well, they had a big cat act. I was sitting ringside when a black panther called Princess, who had clearly had a bad day, decided that sitting up on her pedestal and waving her paws in the air was too, too tedious and it would be more amusing to knock her trainer down with one swipe and then bite his head off. She was about to do that when I grabbed the ice-cream man's slop dish and threw it in her face.'

'That was quick thinking!' said Jane.

'I reasoned that she was a cat and cats hate water and they especially hate to appear anything less than entirely well groomed,' Phryne told Jane. 'With her whiskers full of partly melted ice cream she felt that she could not face her public and rushed off stage. The other beasts went too and the trainer wasn't badly hurt. I don't like seeing those beautiful cats made to do stupid tricks, anyway. It's undignified. If I had allowed the panther to continue with her program for the day they would have had to shoot her, and that wouldn't have done at all. Anyway, they asked me to come backstage and there I met Dulcie. First, I met Kali. Now she is a big elephant. Not friendly. I was picking my way over the waste ground to the caravans when a stupid dog came yapping and biting at this huge elephant—it clearly had a death wish—and her trunk shot out and—whack—the dog was thrown into the air. It hit the side of a tent with a noise like a drum and retired into private life, howling. I was just standing very still, trying not to attract Kali's attention, when Dulcie said, "It's the heat. It's making them nervous," and Kali picked me up and set me on her back as gently as a mother. It was an odd evening, all round,' concluded Phryne, taking another bite of roast beef.

'No, really,' said Dot with some irony.

'Kali is named after the Hindu Goddess of Death,' Jane informed the company. 'She's usually depicted with a bunch of skulls in one hand and a sword in the other, dancing on a pile of severed heads.'

'Nice name,' said Dot, exercising her irony again. 'Nice thing for a young lady to know.'

'Knowledge is power,' said Phryne approvingly. 'Dulcie and elephants just go together like toast and honey. In the way that some people are good with dogs or children, she's good with elephants. And she had such a conventional upbringing, too. Nice girl from a nice school with a retired vicar as a father. Still, you can never tell.'

'Fathers are important,' said Ruth unexpectedly.

'Yes,' agreed Phryne. 'I suppose they are. But there are fathers and fathers, you know. Mine is an old grump.'

'Mine's all right,' said Dot, helping herself to another roast potato. 'A hard working honest man. Even goes to church when Mum nags him. Wants his dinner right on the dot of five, of course, but he works hard and he deserves it. Never used to yell at us or hit us.'

'I don't remember mine very well,' confessed Jane. 'I always lived with my grandma. She said that my parents were travelling folk but kind in their way. They just left me with her and wandered off, then they got killed in a farming accident when I was four.'

'And I don't remember my father at all,' said Ruth. 'I wonder what he was like?'

Phryne suppressed the comment that since he had not gone to the trouble of actually marrying Ruth's mother and had exited stage left before Ruth was born, not even putting his name on her birth certificate, he wasn't particularly relevant. This lack of a father was clearly bothering Ruth, though. The girl read far too many romances.

'He might have been a good man,' she said gently. 'But we'll never know. Think of him as a good man,' she suggested.

'Mum said he was a sailor,' said Ruth.

'There are good sailors,' said Phryne. 'Well, some good sailors. In a way they are ideal as husbands. They drop in every six months for a wild celebration, then they drop out again before one gets bored with their company or annoyed by their habits. However, speculation is always lame. Let's see what Mrs. Butler has for dessert. Ah! Fruit salad and ice cream. I wonder if elephants like ice cream?' 'It would need to be a very big dixie cup,' said Jane.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood. Copyright © 2012 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.

Meet the Author

Kerry Greenwood is the author of more than 40 novels and six non-fiction books. Among her many honors, Ms. Greenwood1 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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Queen of the Flowers (Phryne Fisher Series #14) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
Queen of the Flowers is the fourteenth book in the popular Phryne Fisher series by Australian author, Kerry Greenwood. For the 1928 Flower Festival in St Kilda, Phryne is to be Queen of the Flowers. Appropriate outfits and Flower Maidens have to be organised, adding to Phryne’s usual busy schedule. On top of this, Ruth, one of Phryne’s adopted daughters, is intent on finding her father; an acquaintance (or two) from Phryne’s days in England turn up; and she receives a cryptic card in the post. Then one of the Flower Maidens goes missing, and Ruth fails to return home. This instalment has elephants, musical sailors, TB, a Gambling Boat, someone performing CPR, a miserly grandfather, a dangerous man with a shotgun and, finally, a parade. Bert and Cec, Dot, Jane and Ruth, Li Pen and Lin Chung all do their part, and the Butlers provide background support. Mr Butler’s Refreshing Cocktail is helpfully provided in the appendix. Each chapter ends with some communication between two people that sheds light on Ruth’s parentage. Characters from several earlier books rate mentions or cameos, but this book can be enjoyed without having read previous instalments. Phryne fans will enjoy revisiting this unique household with its adopted daughters, ladies maids, and a Chinese lover whose wife designs his lover’s garden. My favourite passage: ”The day dawned far too bright and fair……Dot was awake, dressed and characteristically cheerful. Dot liked dawn. Phryne only liked it from the other side.” Excellent Greenwood , as always.
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DAKOTAx More than 1 year ago
A sophisticated and enormously enjoyable movel by one of the very best authors in the business of writing mysteries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1928 the townsfolk of St. Kilda are euphoric as they prepare for the annual Queen of the Flowers gala. Socialite Phryne Fisher is especially looking forward to the festival receiving the honor of being name the Queen of the event. This means spending time buying fancy dresses and dining in top restaurants, a hardship that Phryne will suffer with relish though the elephant may be a bit too much even for a woman who tries anything.-------- However, Phryne's adopted daughter, Ruth vanishes in search of her biological father after learning from her birthmother TB victim Anna Ross at the sanatorium who he is. Phryne has been hired by family friends in Melbourne to search for missing Rose Weston while she also plans to trace her adopted daughter. Her investigation proves stunning and shocking as she uncovers some horrific happenings.-------- As always with this excellent Australian historical mystery series, the characters especially the nonparallel Phryne make for a strong period piece. The investigations are fun to follow as the heroine begins to find horrific occurrences that shake even her. However, it is the heroine and her support cast who bring late 1920s Australia to life that makes QUEEN OF FLOWERS and the rest of the Fischer saga some of the best recurring lighthearted investigative tales.------------ Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A shekit is dropped into the clearing. She is tiny, black-furred, with wide dark blue eyes and a spot of white on her chest. Her name is Starkit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Picked her up, and carried her to camp
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She padded down towards the river, scrounging for food. When she saw the river, a sly smile crept onto her face and she dashed back to camp.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The SandClan warrior came in to check the border, and stopped in his tracks, expressionless as he saw the river. He stood there for a second, mind not fully comprehending what happened. This had never happened in the last leaf-bare. When he regained focus, Wolfclaw dashed back to SandClan camp.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Russian Blue shecat skidded over the border and pelted towards SandClan's camp.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Drats.)) A small white cat, not quite apprentice sized, with an unfamiliar scent, streaked by the border, taking in the scents from along the lower portions of the border. She does not stop to hunt for herself, though she does stop. Hopping into the river, she slowly waits, listening closely to the water rushing around her paws. Quickly, she strikes out, somehow managing to catch a fish, far downstream from the beach, and never once looking down into the water, but instead relying on her other senses. Padding out of the water, the white cat drops the fish onto the ground for the next patrol to find, managing to creep along the border in between patrols as she moves towards the HorseClan border. ~A white cat &hearts