Ms. Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

This is a TV series based on the novels by Kerry Greenwood featuring the adventures of an unconventional and daring female detective named Phryne Fisher, set in 1920’s Melbourne. I was hooked onto this show by a friend who started watching it while I was pretending to sleep. And I really liked it more than I expected.

I’ve watched some of the Hercule Perot movies, and when I was much younger, Murder She Wrote, but I don’t remember much of those shows at all. Fisher is different, mainly because it faces a lot of the issues of the time while at the same time being very entertaining,

Ms. Fisher is played by Essie Davis, and she fills the role with a charmingly outspoken voice and a mischievous smile. Fisher is a “modern” woman-she drives a car, drinks and carries a gun, as well as flirts and sleeps with whoever she chooses. Today much of this wouldn’t cause TV viewers to bat an eye (well, some conservatives might complain about her sexual appetite, but that’s their issue). In the 1920’s, however, she would have been a troublemaker even if she was a retiring wallflower. Phryne Fisher, however, is anything but shy, and her fearlessly feminist demeanor is amazing to watch.

Conflicts and prejudice beset her and her comrades on all sides: Catholic and Protestants are seen as separate nations, to the point that mixed marriages are approached with great hesitation and dismay, and women are generally treated as second-class citizens, with many characters expressing views common to the time that ladies should not drive or work after marriage, and of course a pregnant woman is instantly unclean or fallen. A healthy dose of contempt for the poor is also present.

Ms. Fisher does her best to overturn these antiquated views by her simple presence and work as a “Lady Detective.” While her list of skills and experiences (nurse, pilot, singer, shooter) sometimes hurts any sense of drama, Davis’ performance and exuberant personality easily smooths over this wrinkle. Her co-stars are likewise fun to watch and play their parts to the hilt, with everyone getting a chance to shine and strut upon the stage.

The only issue I have with the show-which has been renewed for a third season-is an illogical one: I wish there was a bit of variety in the crimes, as opposed to just murder-even if it meant they’d have to change the name of the show.  I’d highly recommend this show to anyone who wants to curl up and enjoy some lovely costumes, cars, people, and murder.


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