What links can Phryne Fisher find between the ridiculously entertaining plot of "Ruddigore," the Chinese community of Little Bourke Street, the actors treading the boards of His Majesty's Theatre, and a bizarre on-stage death?
About the Author
Kerry Greenwood was born in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray and after wandering far and wide, she returned to live there. She has degrees in English and Law from Melbourne University and was admitted to the legal profession on the 1st April 1982, a day which she finds both soothing and significant. Kerry has written three series, a number of plays, including The Troubadours with Stephen D'Arcy, is an award-winning children's writer and has edited and contributed to several anthologies. The Phryne Fisher series (pronounced Fry-knee, to rhyme with briny) began in 1989 with Cocaine Blues which was a great success. Kerry has written twenty books in this series with no sign yet of Miss Fisher hanging up her pearl-handled pistol. Kerry says that as long as people want to read them, she can keep writing them. In 2003 Kerry won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Australian Association.
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A Phryne Fisher Mystery
By Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen PressCopyright © 1995 Kerry Greenwood
All rights reserved.
'It's Ruddigore. '
'Same thing, isn't it?'
'Does that mean when I say I admire your ruddy countenance, it means I like your bloody cheek?'
Conversation with W. S. Gilbert (attrib.)
The hatchet flicked past, end over end, and struck a wooden shutter with a hollow thud. Light gleamed along the polished blade.
Phryne Fisher closed a leather-gloved hand on the handle and extracted it with one strong pull. She hefted it. An admirable weapon, wellbalanced, not too heavy, wickedly sharp.
'Were you trying to attract my attention?' she asked politely.
An Asian face turned to her out of the mass of struggling bodies. He saw the black hair and pale face, the body shining silver like a Taoist goddess, and screamed at her, 'Jau!'
This meant nothing to Phryne, who had seen an old woman go down without a cry under three attackers clad in dark blue. Little Bourke Street was chill, empty and dark. Sodium glare from the widely spaced street lights turned every puddle on the slick cobbles into a mirror and left black velvet pools of night in between.
In one of these some sort of street fight was occurring. Phryne was on her way to a gala performance of Ruddigore at His Majesty's in celebration of Bert Hinkler's triumphant flight. She was beginning to wonder whether taking a short cut had been such a good idea as it had seemed ten minutes before.
Bunji Ross gasped, 'There's an old lady in that crowd of Chink blighters!' She ran toward the fight and vanished into it like a fly in a frog's mouth. Something would have to be done.
Phryne stepped lightly to a corner, yelled, 'The cops!' and watched as two blue-clad toughs scrambled up and ran away. The other one stopped to kick the recumbent old woman again, and Phryne could not allow that. He had had his chance. She walked quickly up behind him, waited until his head was in the right position, and clipped him neatly with the hatchet, considerately using the back. She was clad in an outrageously expensive dress and did not want to get blood on it.
He collapsed with a satisfactory moan. A returning blue-clad person grabbed him and dragged him off. The soft scrabbling footsteps died away and Phryne hauled Bunji up by the arm. She was much disarrayed but seemed uninjured.
Phryne brushed Bunji down, found her hat, and said, 'I wish you weren't so hasty, Bunji dear. This looks like a private fight, you know. And that is—it was—a rather nice new dress.'
'Yes, yes, and I'm sorry about the dress old thing, but we can't allow old ladies to be attacked. It might start a fashion,' panted Bunji, rubbing her midsection. 'Ooh, drat, that hurts! One of those thugs punched me in the stomach. Don't they know you aren't supposed to hit a woman? I got him a good one, though. He'll know how I feel about this sort of thing.'
'Unchivalrous in the extreme,' agreed Phryne, sighing. Bunji Ross, who was good friend and a brave and determined flyer, was very hard on clothes. Since everything that Phryne had ever lent her had come back ruined, Phryne had paid for a new dress for her short plump companion. It had been a flowing but restrained dark plum velvet sacque with matching hat and shoes, but a roll in the gutters of Little Bourke Street had not improved it. Bunji was wet and muddy and had holed both her stockings.
The young man got to his feet, supporting the old woman. She straightened slowly, wiping a shaking hand over her bruised face, then fastened her eyes on Phryne.
She saw a small woman dressed in silver; a brocade dress which fitted close to her slim body, a cap of the same material with wings at each side, and on her small feet silver kid boots with wings at the ankle. Over the dress, she was draped in a flowing velvet coat with a yoke of brocade. She had a pale face and startling green eyes, and black hair barely longer than the cap. The hatchet swung loosely in her gloved hand. The old woman, creaking in all her joints, bowed. It was possible, she considered, that she had been rescued by a spirit, doubtless sent by the ancestors.
The young man, who knew that there were no spirits, saw through his one functioning eye a woman of surpassing otherness, immensely attractive, supremely alive and shining from head to heel.
Phryne abandoned the attempt to make Bunji elegant and decided that she would be acceptable if most of the mud was removed. Someone spoke to her and she turned.
'Ngo zhang lei koh yan cheng,' said the old woman, speaking to Phryne's knees in a soft, cultured voice.
'My grandmother thanks you,' said the young man. 'She says that we are deeply in your debt, Madame.'
'Not at all,' said Phryne. 'Is your grandmother hurt?'
'She says it is nothing to signify,' the young man bowed in turn. 'I am Lin Chung; it is the Lin family you have rescued in so timely a fashion.'
His accent, to her astonishment, was pure Eton and Oxford. Phryne took the offered hand and looked appreciatively at him. She could not tell if he was handsome, as the recent altercation had split his lip and blackened his eye. However, he was not much taller than herself, beautifully compact and sleek, the hand in her own strong but gentle. She was intrigued.
'Mr Lin, I have an engagement at the theatre. I really must restore my friend to respectability—can you provide us with a wash and brush up?' He nodded and walked to a nearby door. It opened to his tap and the old woman hobbled inside.
'I say, Phryne, is this safe?' whispered Bunji. 'They aren't white slavers or something, are they?'
It was too dark for Phryne's withering glare to have any effect, so she settled for saying, 'Don't be so silly, Bunji. Besides, I've still got this hatchet.'
They were in an anteroom to a warehouse, piled with bundles which oozed such pungent and alien scents that Phryne sniffed with delight. Saffron, she was sure; but what was that strange antiseptic reek, and what on earth could anyone use those evil-looking dried eels for?
'In here, if you please, Madame,' said Lin Chung. 'I will send someone to attend you.'
He conducted Phryne and Bunji into a small room of such elegance that Bunji exclaimed, 'By Jove!' and Phryne gasped.
The walls were hung with red silk—bolts of it must have gone into the decoration. It was figured with small medallions of thread which, from the soft gleam, Phryne decided must be pure gold. Bunji stood on a priceless silk carpet carved with phoenixes and did not dare to move.
'I say,' she whispered, 'what have we got ourselves into?'
'I don't know, but it's very pretty.'
A door opened in the silk-clad wall and a young woman as distant and aloof as a porcelain doll entered. With her came a stout elderly woman in a print dress and apron.
Unspeaking, the woman and the girl laid a sheet on the floor, poured hot water into a huge T'ang bowl decorated with horses, and produced fluffy towels and soap. They divested Bunji of her dress, which was taken by an unseen person outside the door, and then dabbed gently at the mud stains and a small graze on Bunji's knuckles.
Bunji stood in exquisite embarrassment, not wishing to interrupt what appeared to be a ritual, as she was cleansed, dried, and provided with new stockings and wrapped in a padded silk gown. While the old woman took the washing things away, the girl produced a decanter and poured a stiff brandy for each woman, still mute. She looked about sixteen and had evidently been in bed, for her waist length hair was still in its nighttime plait. Phryne accepted the glass and said, 'Hello.'
The girl looked at her for the first time.
'Hello,' she replied sulkily. 'Is this the sort of thing you drink? Only Grandmother said to look after you because you rescued her and I'll get into trouble if it isn't right.'
'It's just what we wanted. Thank you. What's your name?'
'Here they call me Annie. I'll go and get the dress. Po Po's maid is cleaning it.'
'Annie, what did we interfere in?'
'I can't tell you.' The composure broke and Annie's black eyes flashed. 'I'm not going to tell you. Why did you have to come along just then?'
'Fate,' said Phryne, nettled. 'Can you find a safe place for this?' She handed over the hatchet. Annie took it.
'Grandmother wants her address,' she pointed to Bunji.
'Oh, why?' Bunji's thoughts had clearly turned to white slaving again.
'So that she can send you a present. To thank you for rescuing her.'
'Very well,' said Bunji, writing down her name and address in a silk-covered notebook which the girl held out. 'But it was my pleasure, really,' she said doubtfully. Closing the book, Annie reverted to her doll-like stillness, bowed to an exact degree and left.
Phryne looked at Bunji, who shrugged.
'They're Chinks, they're aliens, what did you expect?'
'Bunji, do stop calling them Chinks, it's not polite.'
'What else can I call them?' asked Bunji reasonably. 'That's what they are. This is a nice robe, though.' She smoothed the decorated material with a hard hand.
The elderly woman returned with the dress, invisibly mended and cleaned of stains, and Bunji pulled it on and shoved her hat back onto her head, hiding her short hair.
'Well, let's go, it has been an exciting evening but I don't want to miss seeing Bert again, though I don't know about this opera, Phryne, I've never been a culture shark like you. Is it all fat ladies bellowing at each other?'
'No, it's very funny and you'll like it,' said Phryne firmly. She finished the cognac and put down the glass, wondering if they should just walk out. Bunji settled this by striding through the antechamber and into Little Bourke Street and Phryne followed. She had reached the door when the young man appeared, touched her arm and said, 'Madame, we are in your debt. Can we know who you are?'
'Why do you want to know?' asked Phryne, pausing at the door. 'It was all my friend's idea, I just cleaned up after her. She's the valiant one.' He smiled at her, an action which must have hurt.
'I wish to come and express our family's gratitude in some tangible form.' The sensual suggestion was strong and Phryne was attracted. She found her card and held it up.
'What will you give me, then, Mr Lin, to express your gratitude?'
'I will sit at your feet and sing your praise all night, Silver Lady.' The voice was soft and Phryne felt an answering smile curving the corners of her mouth. 'Most beautiful lady,' said Lin Chung, 'I will do whatever would most please you.'
Phryne felt that this offer was agreeably unconditional. She allowed him to take the card, swept her velvet coat around her, and said, 'Come on Thursday night, Mr Lin. To dinner at eight o'clock. I will think of something that you can do for me by then.'
By then, she reflected as she walked quickly away behind Bunji, his face will have healed. And she calculated that she would at least get a length of that absolutely exquisite silk for the trouble of hitting an assailant over the head with a hatchet.
Lin Chung gazed after the twinkle of her winged heels as the Honourable Phryne Fisher receded into the night.
* * *
His Majesty's Theatre was ablaze with light as they walked up to the corner and turned into the main street. Expensive cars were stopping to allow expensive by-invitation-only patrons to alight. There was a scent of French perfume so strong as to be almost a stench, and a flurry of coats and cloaks and glossy top hats.
'There—' Bunji dragged Phryne through the ranks. 'There's Bill, and Captain Larkin—come on, Phryne.'
It was easy to find the flyers. They were gathered into a tight little group in one corner of the foyer, looking uncomfortable among the most shrill and glamorous of Melbourne Society.
'What ho, Cap'n,' Bunji hailed. 'Is Bert here yet?'
'No, he's being smuggled in through the back. I say, Miss Fisher, you look spiffing! Mercury, ain't you, like the Greek god? Remarkable, even down to the winged shoes.' Phryne, who had been keeping her ensemble for just such an occasion, smiled warmly at the captain. Bunji nudged him.
'Well, how's poor Bert bearing up? He must be a nervous wreck by now.'
'Oh, yes, the hero of the hour, poor chap,' observed Captain Larkin, smoothing his moustache complacently. 'Can't bear publicity. I bet he's wishing he was back up in the sky.'
'Oh, why?' asked Phryne, who had preserved her cloak uncrushed in her passage through the multitude by following exactly in the stouter Bunji's wake.
'Simple, it's all predictable up in the air.'
'Predictable?' Phryne could not think of a less predictable pastime than flying.
'Yes, only a certain number of things can go wrong, and only a few of those will kill you. Pity about Chubbie Miller and old Bill Lancaster breaking a wing, though. Otherwise they might have made it in before Hustlin' Hinkler.'
'Why is he called hustling?' Phryne was shoved against Captain Larkin, who smelt delightfully of Floris's stephanotis.
'He leaves on time—every time. He arrives on time though Hell should bar the way. Most amazin' chap. And he made the flight from Croydon to Darwin across all those islands and countries in fifteen and a half days. Remarkable man. But he'll be deeply embarrassed by all this adulation. Not one for the populace, Hinkler.'
'No? Dislikes his fellow man?'
'Hates crowds and doesn't trust enthusiasm any more than a Presbyterian,' rejoined Bunji. 'Unsentimental, perhaps that's it. He really only likes a few people, his co-pilot and some flyers and his Mum. He hasn't even given his plane a name.'
'Now that is interesting,' Phryne said, 'I thought all planes had names.'
Bunji agreed. 'Yes, well, there's Red Rose, that's the Miller/ Lancaster Avro, and your Rigel and my Tiger Cat and Bill's Moonraker and Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis and Kingsford Smith's Southern Cross. Yes. We all give the planes names—but he just calls his GE BOV, the call sign. Either he doesn't want it to develop a personality, or ...'
'He just doesn't think like that,' concluded Captain Larkin. 'By the way, Bunji old girl—someone took up a Tiger Moth and did some very pretty stuntin' to welcome Hinkler. You wouldn't happen to know who it was, would you?'
'No,' said Bunji, blushing the colour of her dress. 'No, really? I can't imagine how I missed it.'
'I can't imagine either,' said Captain Larkin drily.
Bunji, desperate for a distraction, asked, 'Phryne, who is that woman in the red dress? She's been staring at us.'
'Oh, that's Diana Ffoulkes,' said Phryne, returning the gaze of bright blue eyes with interest. 'Terribly rich, terribly bored, with a penchant for celebrities. Her last affair was with a flyer, I believe; her lovers never last. I wonder if she's prospecting for a new one?' She caught a glimpse of spun-silk hair and cupid's bow mouth as Miss Ffoulkes bent her regard elsewhere. Phryne caught Captain Larkin smoothing his moustache complacently, a movement just short of preening, and grinned at him. He coughed and said quickly, 'Come along, ladies, let's go inside. There's a surprise in the theatre.'
Phryne, who considered that she had had enough surprises for one night, took his arm and followed him up the steps into the dress circle.
Red plush was the dominant motif in His Majesty's Theatre. That and gilt equal to the output of the Ballarat goldfields for at least three months. Everything glittered and shone which wasn't draped and soft. Phryne sat down and looked at the stage.
Over the proscenium was a large map of Hinkler's epic journey, with the fuel stops picked out in red lamps. There were a lot of them, dotted across Europe and Asia.
'Look up,' invited Captain Larkin.
Phryne leaned back and stared up into the blue dome with gold stars which dominated the theatre and gasped.
There, circling on a hidden line, was a scale model of Hinkler's Avro Avian, its propeller revolving slowly in the hot air.
'I say!' said Phryne. 'That is impressive.'
'It's mine,' said the captain modestly, 'made it this winter. Luckily both the contending flyers were in Avros. Brought it into the theatre this morning and spent most of the day riggin' it up, to the groans of the stage hand chappies, by the way. Said it couldn't be done without ruining the sight-lines, whatever they are. Said it would cast shadows on the stage—apparently there are banks of lights on the dress circle, can't say I've ever noticed 'em. They insisted on hauling it up that high, don't know why. But it looks good, don't it?'
Excerpted from Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood. Copyright © 1995 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When I just want a mini escape I pick up a Phyrne Fisher mystery. They are fun and stylish.
In 1928 Australia Phyrne Fisher and her best friend Bunji Ross are walking to His Majesty¿s theatre to see a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan¿s operetta Ruddigore. However, Bunji notices several men accosting an elderly Chinese woman so she intercedes taking a shot to her gut. Phyrne follows scattering the assaulters so she can rescue the woman. Her grandson Lin Chung thanks Phyrne and Bunji for rescuing his grandmother from a nasty mob. --- Phyrne enjoys the performance, but between acts theatre manager Sir Bernard Tarrant asks her to come to the back area as an accident occurred. However, another patron Dr. Fielding states that actor Ruthven was poisoned with an opiate. Deputy Inspector John ¿Jack¿ Robinson heads the official investigation. Another performer Leila Esperanza insists ghosts were haunting the theater and caused the incident. Bernard knowing Phyrne¿s reputation for solving mysteries wants her to investigate before someone else is hurt or killed. --- Historical mystery fans who have not read the Phyrne Fisher tales are missing out on one of the best series available today. The latest who-done-it contains a fabulous sleuthing subplot as well as the first meeting between Phyrne and her lover Lin. Phyrne is a terrific protagonist who is a delightful gender bender accepted as more than just an equal by men in typically male roles at least in 1920s Australia. Her detective work is top rate as Kerry Greenwood combines real events like the 1928 showing of Ruddigore with a fabulous mystery.--- Harriet Klausner
This is the 7th book in Kerry Greenwood¿s Phryne Fisher (pronounced FRY-nee Fisher) mystery series. It is the first one that I have read.The books are set in Australia during the 1920s. Phryne Fisher is a private investigator who gets involved in a case when the lead of the operetta she is attending collapses. Soon after, during the same show, the stand-in for the character Sir Ruthven also falls ill. When one of the Sir Ruthvens dies as a result and when a stage ¿accident¿ kills another company member, Phryne and the investigating police know that there is definitely a criminal that needs to be stopped.The mystery is set in the playhouse of the Melbourne Gilbert and Sullivan company. The show they are putting up is Ruddigore, and Kerry Greenwood manages to work lines and events from the operetta into the plot of her book. Since all the suspects and witnesses are among the actors, dressers, and stagehands, most interactions are necessarily very dramatic and emotional. Not knowing much about that world, I can¿t speak of its accurate portrayal, but it was entertaining. It was also interesting to be able to explore the relationships between the dressers and their actors, a topic which I never really thought about. The fact that she could work in clever references to Gilbert and Sullivan and Ruddigore throughout the book was just an added bonus. But overall, the best part was the character Phryne Fisher. She is an unflappable woman with a good sense of humor, but she is also very much a lady. The mystery was light¿not much suspense and no gore as the title might lead you to believe. But it was a good amusement, and sometimes that is exactly what I am looking for in a book.
Find somewhere else to live-out your feline fantasy regarding Moggies. We are interested only in reviews of a book we may wish to purchase. Isn't there someone checking postings to stop the Cat Clan mania. Please, would someone get rid of (delete) those annoying Cat Clan posts?
Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood is the seventh book in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Phyrne Fisher is attending a gala performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore at His Majesty’s Theater. Along the way, Phryne and her aviator friend, Bunji Ross encounter some trouble and must rescue an elderly Chinese woman and her grandson, Lin Chung (good thing Phryne is handy with an axe). Phryne is enjoying the performance until Walter Copland, playing Sir Ruthven, collapses on the stage. The theater’s manager and an old friend of Phryne’s, Sir Bernard Tarrant requests Phryne’s assistance, but the performance must go on first. Robert Craven takes over the part of Sir Ruthven and, near the end of the play, it is obvious that something is wrong with the man. It turns out that both men were poisoned. The production has been plagued with problems and some believe there is a ghost in the theater. Sir Bernard hires Phryne to investigate. When Walter Copland does not last the night, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson is out to find his killer. Jack is glad to have Phryne involved with this case (he dislikes theaters). But the person responsible is not done tormenting the production. Can Phryne and Jack find the culprit before there is another fatality? And Phryne has not seen the last of the fetching Lin Chung. Ruddy Gore is an entertaining novel. It is always delightful to revisit the vivacious Phryne Fisher. The story starts out a little slow while Phryne is enjoying Ruddigore, but the pace picks up after the performance. The book has an overabundance of characters. Readers are introduced to the cast of the play and the people who work behind the scenes at the theater. I do wish there had not been so many characters to weed through and that some of the core characters had been included in Ruddy Gore (Bert, Cec, Dot, Ruth, Jane, the Butlers). In addition, I missed Phryne’s over-the-top personality. She was more subdued in this novel. Lin Chung is a nice addition to the series, and I am sure we will see him again in the future. I give Ruddy Gore 3.5 out of 5 stars. I found the mysteries (there is a thirty-year-old one too) entertaining, but they can be solved (if you pay close attention). It was interesting to see the differences between the book and the show by the same name. Personally, I was more a fan of the show. It had more focus. If you are not a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, I do not recommend Ruddy Gore. Information about the play and characters are discussed in length. While reading Ruddy Gore, you need to remember that the book is set in 1928. People’s views towards Chinese were very different than they are today. If you are a fan of Miss Fisher and her antics, you will enjoy this seventh installment in the series. Those who have not read the earlier books in the series may not enjoy Ruddy Gore.
Ruddy Gore is one of my favorite of the Phryne Fisher books. The theater setting is reminiscent of classic mysteries, like Ngaio Marsh and Edmund Crispin.
Leader- Poppystar <br> Deputy- Seedstorm <br> Medicine Cats- Flametiger (sort of) and Dawnlily <br> Camp Location- 'heaven coelestia' all results (multi-result) <br> Territory Location- 'arcana coelestia'- IGNORE THE LOCATIONS IN MY POST AT THE MAP IN THIS SEARCH!!!!!!! They are INCORRECT. <br> <p> Northclan is a mediumish-sized clan, made up of pine trees and marshland.
Name: Pandemonium<br>Members' names are unavailable<br>Contact Person: look for Rosepetal at HorseClan for questions<p>Current Rules Location: "wars of light shadow"<br>Territory: in short, Pandemonium has a varied geography. There is some mountains in the north, an ocean to the west, along with many coves along the shore. Also, there is a grassland to the south, a plateau to the west, with forests and rivers bringing the territory together. [Longer description found with the rules.]<br>Border: Pandemonium is a more secretive Clan, acting like rogues usually. There is no border, so if you are looking for them, keep your wits about you.<br>Biographies: whilst there is a location, only upon acceptance will this location be given out.<p>Description: in general, Pandemonium is in most ways similar to any other Clan, yet with a twist. The members entrust their name to no one outside of the Clan and few know the location of their camp. Secrecy seems to play a key role in their daily lives as they fight to survive, sometimes killing or taking cats from the Clans without trace, except for their scent. Taking on any older cats seem to really take a toll on the other cat more than Pandemonium from their long lives' experiences.<p>Prey: depending on where to hunt, you could entrap mice, vole, and birds, as well as fish and rabbit, amongst other creatures. When the cats all work together, they can even sometimes bring down bigger animals like snow foxes, however, that is very uncommon.<p>How to apply: Simply read all of the rules and information provided at "wars of light shadow" all results and then post an application to join. You basically just need the core basics of a biography and a contact location to apply. More directions are provided.<p>More information or questions?: Feel free to contact Rosepetal at HorseClan at any time to request more information or to ask any questions you may have. Thank you.<p>~ℳ
14 Leader: Thistlestar <br> Deputy: Dashingwind <br> Medicine cat: Elmbush <p> Territory: SandClan territory is a watery area with rivers and few trees. <p> Diet: Usually trout, but on a rare occacion, salmon swim against the current to spawn. <p> Most like: RiverClan <p> Border: result 14
Leader: Foxstar <br> Deputy: Sedgewhisker <br> Medicine Cat(s): Cloudbeauty and Poppystorm <br> Medicine Cat Apprentice: Mousepaw <br> Territory: 'Raining Ash' all results. Main camp is in result 2
Night sorry i did not see thats
He curls up in his nest and falls asleep.