Author: Kerry Greenwood
Title: Murder on the Ballarat Train
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press, 1991, 151 pages
When Melbourne's #1 flapper detective Phryne Fisher decides to take the train to Ballarat, she lands herself in the middle of her next case. She awakens in the night to find that the First Class carriage has been poisoned with chloroform, and one passenger is missing. Searching for the murderer leads Phryne to a lost girl, a white slavery ring, a (another) beautiful lover, and a spot of danger before she sorts everything out, sees the killer hauled away, and everyone can relax with a cup of tea.
While Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mysteries tend to be short, they are jam-packed with action of all sorts. Murder on the Ballarat Train is no exception. We are whisked from hairs-breadth escapes to luscious seductions to shopping expeditions and excursions into the seamier side of Melbourne, and Greenwood never puts a foot wrong.
The killer was fairly easy to guess, but it took Phryne a bit of work to line up the proof and confirm my guess. And during the whole case she never loses sight of the importance of protecting the pair of abused girls who show up on her doorstep (nor of the pleasures of seductions). Searching out the truth of their lives involves two of Greenwood's more delightful creations, Bert and Cec, always a crowd-pleaser.
As is frequent in Greenwood's books, there are two equally important plots apparently running parallel throughout the book. In some books, they remain parallel to the end; in this case they are brought just close enough together to satisfy, while remaining realistically individual.
This is a very sound mystery for any lover of mysteries, but will especially appeal to those who like period pieces (1920s), and those who are not troubled by a freely sexual female lead.
©Rebecca M. Douglass
Full Disclosure: I checked Murder on the Ballarat Train out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."