Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
I skipped four books in the series, from Flying Too High to Ruddy Gore. Why did I do this? Well, the truth of the matter is that I was first exposed to the indomitable Miss Fisher through the television series, and this story was one that appealed to me greatly. GHOSTS! The THEATER! Twists and turns galore. And I'm happy I did, because, if this is any indication, the series has grown, and grown more competent, as it has gone along. Gone is Phrynie sidetracked by a completely unrelated mystery; the focus on the theater allowed for the disparate stories to be connected in some way or another. I learned a lot about both Gilbert and Sullivan (which I knew nothing about) and more than I did about Chinese immigration to Australia in "the second gold rush." (And, truly, much power to the author, no matter what qualms you have in the way she handled the matter of race, for pointing out that native Australians aren't white, and what is thought of as white Australia is predominantly ethnic!)
Given the nature of the books and Phrynie herself--to be a female James Bond--that the stories would be exploitative in some way isn't a great surprise; the first two were certainly. Adding Lin Chung to the mix has its difficulties, but I don't think it really goes outside of the tone of the series. Does it have its problems? Certainly. But I'd say it's mostly well handled. And he makes a good foil for Phrynie herself.
Comparing it to the series, I have to say that the writers of the show certainly had more of a grasp on the tempo of writing mysteries, but the books has things, like Lin's involvement in debunking the ghost, that the show glosses over or excludes entirely. Not to mention that the explanations are actually historically accurate, if not quite as fantastical as the television show.
My favorite of the Phrynie books so far! Bring on Blood and Circuses!