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I didn't know it was possible for one person to feel so polarised about something. But I am!
Usually it requires two individuals of opposite opinions to polarise a subject, but somehow, after a couple of hours consideration I've decided I have very dichotomous views about this book. I loved some aspects and really quite disliked others. If I'm brutally honest, if this were a first book in a series, rather than the 20th (and therefore at a stage where I already have a deep connection with the characters) I'm not 100% certain I would have continued the series. I think this book is not a good introduction to Phryne for non-fans, and deviates a little from the perfected formula enough to perturb her loyal fans. It certainly won't make me throw down my Phryne Fisher Fan Club membership card in disgust, but it didn't make me feel like I needed to press "Play Again" as almost every other Phryne novel did.
On the one hand I loved the return of Phryne, as I knew I would. And Phryne was as she ever was; fun and sassy, and meddlesome in her very enjoyable way, and Stephanie Daniel's narration was stellar as always. I also enjoyed the Sherlock-ian story line. By its very nature, a Sherlock theme is not original, but Kerry does a wonderful job of portraying a Sherlock as SHE imagines him (fans of the BBCs Sherlock will have no trouble imagining BC in the role of Rupert). And I think her style of book really has been begging for the opportunity to take a dig at the Sherlock method, so I enjoyed this aspect of the novel immensely. I also thought that the back story of the things Phryne got up to during the war were great, if a little "out of the blue".
Regarding the the bits I did not enjoy (as much): I, like many other readers, was disappointed with the increase in the detailed sex scenes, scenes that I only appreciate listening to when they add to the context of the story. As many of the scenes were filler, (likewise the increase in Phryne's inner dialogue regarding handsome men she'd like to "tumble") I found these scenes to detract from the story rather than add to it. Don't get me wrong - Kerry manages to sound more tasteful than any other author I've read who includes these sorts of scenes, but even done tastefully it didn't interest me. All that said - one presumes that she is under pressure from publishers to include/increase this sort of content as there has a been a HUGE surge in adult content books in the last 2 years, and I suppose the publishers must feel that these sorts of scenes have become necessary to maintain sales, because Kerry has never furnished her novels with such a quantity of "romance" before. In reality, accumulated they account for less than 30 minutes of an 11.5 hour story, so not really voluminous, just more than necessary.
The mystery... well, the mystery was much more the sideline story here than the driving plot line. After I got over waiting for a cracker mystery to unfold, and simply sat back to enjoy the character/Sherlock story line, I enjoyed the book a lot more. In this case, the mystery is just like starch, or emulsifiers in chocolate - necessary to bind the story as a whole and bulk it up a bit, but not really important to your enjoyment of the book. If you go in with low mystery expectations, and simply aim to enjoy the characters you'll feel less disappointed with this book.
On a final note, in a previous review for Unnatural Habits I mentioned that I thought Kerry had done a fantastic job of maintaining the character of Phryne, and she still portrayed a wonderful Phryne in this novel (if more sexy) - for me I felt that this book demonstrated a character change in another key character, and one wonders if a little of the TV show portrayal of said character has rubbed off on Kerry and altered her representation of them? After all, she writes for the TV show as well, so such a change would be understandable. I won't say any more to bias you, listen and see for yourself. After all, it is still a Phryne novel, still an enjoyable listen, and I still recommend it, despite the negative aspects commented here.
16 of 18 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about this story?
Something extra went into the 20th Phryne Fisher novel and it was one of the best novels yet. The homosexual love (not Phryne) was a bit more than i wanted, but was in line with the plot. (I don't care what consenting adults like, but i don't need to hear about the kissing!) My previous favorite was Murder in Montparnasse, so i much like the inclusion of world war 1 experiences in the development of the Phryne we know in 1930s Australia.
What about Stephanie Daniel’s performance did you like?
Stephanie does a multitude of character voices very well.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Is there anything you would change about this book?
A little less on the homosexual love story (I found it a little tedious after a while) a better explanation on why one of the main docklands "kingpins" wanted to kill one of them (we are told) but not until the main event. When did Phyrne become involved in MI6 and then there was the add on story about the choir (which is where the Mendelssohn came in for the title) but the solution finished so fast you went "is that it" . I was disappointed Ms Greenwood is usually better than this.
Would you recommend Murder and Mendelssohn to your friends? Why or why not?
Maybe but only if the were a real Phyrne fan otherwise no
Which character – as performed by Stephanie Daniel – was your favourite?
Phyrne Fisher, Dot, Jack and Cec & Bert
Did Murder and Mendelssohn inspire you to do anything?
Yes to buy another audio book by Kerry greenwood just to make sure she can still write a good story
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Enjoyable story, pity about the narration . Why one would cast a voice who is a) not only English but incapable of anything approaching an Australian accent, and b) tone deaf , for a story about Mendelssohn set in Australia and, is beyond me.Her pacing was repetitive, her attempts at singing painful and her poetry reading insensitive. The story is a lovely Phryne Fisher mystery. Lots of feminism, lots of laughs. possibly it was drawn out a little too long, but enjoyable, despite the atrocious narration.
beautifully narrated and voices well done. but i'm not a fan of romance so those parts got a bit long winded for me. in a written book I'd have skipped them. similarly with the singing in the choir parts.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
The narrator did the best of what must have been a very difficult job. She definitely should not have tried to sing, although she tried very hard. Rupert's voice was constantly irritating and I could not understand what John saw in the ghastly man, except for his angelic lavender eyes - come on!
It was disappointing, because otherwise the narrator was excellent and I would certainly listen to her reading again.
What could Kerry Greenwood have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
Leave out the gratuitous sex. I kept on wondering who had told her it was a good idea. Lovers of Phryne Fisher love her subtlety and what is implied - unfortunately nothing was left to the imagination here.
The book could have been immensely more enjoyable if it was a swift mystery with the delicious Phryne solving it in her inimitable manner. This story dragged on for ever - it is the first Phryne I have considered so boring that I couldn't care less what happened. The good stuff was thoroughly buried in the mud.
What three words best describe Stephanie Daniel’s voice?
Flexible, adaptable, clear.
You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?
No, not really.
Any additional comments?
Please, Kerry - may this be a sad aberration from a winning formula!
0 of 1 people found this review helpful