A Question of Death

A Question of Death by Kerry Greenwood. This collection of short stories featuring Greenwood’s 1920s Australian female sleuth, Phryne Fisher, is different from other compilations of this nature such as Peter Tremayne’s Whispers of the Dead (Sister Fidelma) or Ellis Peters’ A Rare Benedictine (Brother Cadfael) in that it includes illustrations (usually copies of those used on previous book jackets), recipes, and other Phyrne-related tidbits to separate each story. These are nice additions that add value. I was especially interested in the introductory essay by Greenwood on how she got started writing mysteries and how Phryne’s character was born.

Unfortunately, I still struggle to recommend this book to veteran Greenwood readers or to newcomers to the series because the short stories themselves are not that exceptional. The secondary characters like Phyrne’s companion/maid Dot are wasted in this format and newcomers won’t understand the special interrelationships that exist between them and the main heroine. Regular readers will be disappointed to see recycled plots such as a robbery from a safe in a University library (Death Before Wicket). This is one of those instances where it is far superior to start with the first book in the series (Cocaine Blues) as it lays the groundwork for all the stories that follow.

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