Just Murdered by Katherine Kovacic

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

Those readers who are fans of the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on TV will enjoy this book as it carries on the adventures of Miss Fisher as she helps the police solve the crime. In this book, the main character is not Phryne Fisher as she has not been heard from for over six months when the plane she was in went down in the highlands of New Guinea. The heroine is now her niece Peregrine Fisher.

The book tells how this young lady, who is now alone since her mother died and who finds it very difficult to hold a job, travels to Melbourne at the request of The Adventuresses’ Club of the Antipodes with talk of an inheritance. Here, she meets Phryne’s friend Detective Steed and his boss, the chauvinistic, dodgy Inspector Sparrow who had no time for The Adventuresses’ Club or Miss Fisher.

I was amused at the title having the word modern in it when the book is set in Australia in the 1960s. Most murder mysteries are suspenseful and keep the reader on the edge. This murder mystery, however, although there is danger and two murders have been committed, appears somewhat flippant. The emphasis here appears to be more on the character of Peregrine Fisher and her antics than on the murders themselves.

I doubt many other crime stories would spend eight and a half pages on explaining how Peregrine Fisher gained entry to a place she had been refused admittance. The description was very thorough following her scaling of a wall, walking along it, crossing the roof to find her goal and finally falling from a small window onto a suit of armour. Likewise, many words are spent on telling the reader about her clothing, ‘She’s changed out of her Blair’s uniform and was now dressed in capri pants and a short-sleeved shirt in shades of pink and aqua…She held up a bottle of frosted pink polish and wiggled her toes for emphasis’ (129), and on another occasion ‘She’d chosen a Teddy Tinling tennis dress – white Dacron and cotton squared off with a band of blue’ (173).

The exuberance with which Peregrine Fisher faces life, one could even say brashness, ‘Yes! I’m great at tests! Are we doing it now? I’m ready!’ (101), her street smarts and skills she has acquired in her short life are soon obvious and she is accepted into the Adventuresses’ Club, where ‘every member is remarkable in her own right – her achievements outstanding’ (49). Peregrine will take up the mantle of private detective that her aunt had left behind.

As the storyline continues and Peregrine Fisher goes about her private detecting, Detective Steed realises that she was very much like her aunt.  Even though helping her aunt had almost cost him his job, he soon found himself working closely with this new Miss Fisher. ‘She had the same attitude to life, the same disregard for convention and the same ability to go places and do things he could not’ (211-212).

The author has stayed true to the era in which the story is set with frequent mention of singers of the time, Doris Day, Johnny O’Keefe or other notable people such as The Avon Lady. There is even mention of a Frigidaire and a microfilm machine. We also have an electronics guru who makes useful gadgets such as the lipstick stiletto – but this story is not about James Bond. It is about Peregrine Fisher who becomes the central focus in the storyline.

I did enjoy this story about the two murders which were closely connected to Melbourne’s Blair’s Emporium and being introduced to another Miss Fisher. The unravelling of the murders was logical and the characters believable following closely to the characters of the earlier TV series.

This book is based on the screenplay Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries (also stylised as Ms Fisher’s MODern Murder Mysteries) by Deb Cox which began as an Australian television drama series screening on the Seven Network in February 2019 and introduces the new female private detective.

Katherine Kovacic is an Australian author who has written short stories, true crime and crime fiction. Her debut novel, The Portrait of Molly Dean, was shortlisted for the 2019 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction and was the first of three books featuring art historian and sleuth Alex Clayton.

Just Murdered

(2021)

by Katherine Kovacic

Allen & Unwin

ISBN:978-1-76087-939-6

$29.99; 288pp

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