Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Review - Kerry Greenwood's Flying Too High

Flying Too High (Phryne Fisher Book 2) by Kerry Greenwood
Published by: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: 1990
Format: Hardcover, 245 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Something is in the air and it seems to be effecting local pilots associated with The Sky-High Flying School. Bill McNaughton has been arrested for the murder of his father, William, and Henry Maldon's daughter Candida has been kidnapped. In an odd twist of fate, Phryne Fisher was called in to prevent the murder of William McNaughton, Bill's father... though sometimes things don't go to plan. Looking into William's death she realizes that he was a horrid man who abused both his wife and his daughter and, in a just world, his killer could get away with it. Sadly though, in order to save Bill, she must figure out what really did happen, because though he deserved to die, Bill is innocent, not matter what the local police think.

Then there's Candida. Plucked off the street with her bag of sweets falling into the gutter. Candida's father recently won some money in the lottery, money that is now gone thanks to buying a new home and purchasing a plane for the flying school. Though the kidnappers don't know that he is skint. Believing in wealth, they put up with Candida and her demanding ways, she did vomit quite a lot on one of the culprits. Because of helping Bill, Henry Maldon risks calling Phryne for help. She's not the police so he's not going against what the kidnappers said. Phryne knows that they have to act swiftly and comes up with quite a daring and dangerous rescue plan. Here's hoping she can pull it off and get justice for all who deserve it.

Yet again I was struck by how much I just loved this book with it's perfect balancing of the fun and frivolous with the dark and disturbed. There's something so much more that you get that isn't in the television series, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, though I dare say, the series is lovely in it's own rights. Flying Too High is not afraid to have sympathetic bad guys and unlikable good guys. There's a non-traditional feel to the narrative that makes it fresh and original. All this though comes through Phryne. It's her unique views on the world that inspire this non-traditional feel. She has interesting notions of justice which she carries out. Just because someone has been forced into a life of crime doesn't mean they are a bad person. If need be, she will be fluid with the truth if it will help that person out. Likewise, the kidnapping, which is a trope that everyone falls victim to, was made more interesting and original by the fact that Candida handled her situation in a more rational and thoughtful manner and was surrounded by criminals that had more depth, motive, and originality then your random thug. This also led to a very interesting solution cooked up by Phryne. Instead of either a) going to the police against the kidnappers wishes or b) bungling the counter plan that isn't police approved or sanctioned, she goes with c) a plan that works brilliantly.

Also, for some reason, this book really made me think more of the victim of a crime. Here I'm talking about the murder of William McNaughton. At the beginning when his wife is pleading to have his life saved, you think that he's probably a good, upstanding citizen, whose wife loves him dearly and would do anything to save him. You think of him as the good man in a bad situation. Of course, in short order your views are rapidly changing, doing a complete 180. Which brings me to my thought of the day. Why meet out justice for the bad guys? I mean, yes, it's what is legally and morally right, solve the crime no matter who the victim was... but this is fiction. Which led me to another thought. How many times have I sat around watching a murder mystery and been rooting for someone to die? Take Midsomer Murders, I often root for the death and then the more death and more death, but in the end, the killer is just as guilty and evil as the victim. Here, finding out after the death of the man's rotten soul, well, I just wanted the killer to get away. I'm not sure if this is because, like Phryne, I found out after the fact of him being evil, or because of some weird notions I have from watching one too many episodes of Midsomer Murders that if you die you deserve it. Whichever way you look at it, it made me think and made me that much more absorbed in the book.

Now, even though I have for the purposes of my Golden Summer finished reading Phryne, I have a feeling I won't be letting her rest much longer on my shelves. There's just something so compelling in these books, something that I just didn't expect, that makes me want to read more and more of them, thankfully I have quite a few! As it says on the back cover "Imagine Emma Peel as a flapper, and you have Phryne Fisher." While I think Phryne deserves better then comparisons, this is an apt one. She has the same physicality, the same sense of justice, the same remarkable wardrobe. Also the same awesome house. I didn't mention her new house yet did I? She literally bought a house whose address is 221 and then added the "B" because she thought it would be fun on the business cards. That and it's a gorgeous townhouse, with a floor all for Dot AND the funniest servants in Mr and Mrs Butler that one could hope for. I wish I could be invited round for tea just once... but then I'd end up solving crimes and hanging out with Bert and Cec... wait... I don't really see a downside to this plan... it must be put into action now!


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