Corinna the sleuth is a radical departure from the Phryne Fisher mould, possessing few of the qualities that made Phryne so enticing, although she is an equally likeable heroine.
Corinna is a large lady, completely clueless about fashion and makeup, who has to rely on her friend Meroe the white witch if ever she needs a spot of fashion advice. There are no strings of young men at Corinna’s beck and call, nor is she independently wealthy. In between solving crimes, Corinna works for her living – she is an accountant who chucked it all in to open the Earthly Delights bakery.
Corinna also inhabits the 21st Century, as exemplified by her talented assistant baker Jason (ex-junkie and maker of heavenly muffins) and her ditsy anorexic shop assistants, Kylie and Gossamer (of the ever-changing hair colour and bejewelled navel piercings).
The main backdrop to this series is the stunning rococo city building where Corinna and an ever expanding cast of other unusual characters live and work. These include the aforementioned Meroe, who runs a tiny witchcraft shop selling herbs and potions, Trudi the gardening expert, Jon and his highly decorative boyfriend Kepler, Pat (aka Mistress Dread the bondage mistress), computer nerds Taz, Rat and Gully (aka the Lone Gunmen), the erudite Professor Monk and the numerous and generous Pandamus family. There is also Corinna’s love interest, the gorgeous and mysterious Daniel Cohen, who works on the midnight Soup Run ministering to Melbourne’s junkies and homeless.
An assortment of wonderful cats also features, including scruffy Rodent Control Officers Heckle and Jekyll who earn their keep amongst the flour sacks; patrician Horatio lounging on the bakery counter all day; Belladonna, Meroe’s jet-black familiar, and one of the more recent additions – an extremely naughty and quite delightful kitten by the name of Lucifer.
Trick or Treat
Melbourne author Kerry Greeenwood is a legal advocate who moonlights as a crime writer, although these days it’s really the other way around, what with the enormous success of her series featuring crime-solving heiress Phryne Fisher.
I must confess to loving that cool-as-a-cucumber 1920s gal Phryne, with her enviable figure and fashion sense, flash house and snazzy Hispano-Suiza racing car. Not to mention her level-headedness in a crisis, and crisply authoritative bossing around of servants and everyone else within earshot.
Phryne has an endearing habit of taking under her wing people who are down on their luck, and they return the favour with undying devotion to their clever and wayward mistress. She is also uncompromising in her pursuit of pleasure with an assortment of handsome young men who regularly flow through her life, no doubt causing endless headaches for the loyal and patient Mr and Mrs Butler, who run Phryne’s household.
The series is more character-driven than anything, as sometimes the plot twists and logistics of the actual murders become a bit implausible, but the series is an enormous amount of fun, and Phryne and her team of occasionally rather dodgy “Good Guys” are immensely likeable characters.
The series in order:
Flying Too High
Murder on the Ballarat Train
Death at Victoria Dock
The Green Mill Murder
Blood and Circuses
Raisins and Almonds
Death Before Wicket
Away with the Fairies
Murder in Montparnasse
The Castlemaine Murders
Queen of the Flowers
Death By Water
Murder in the Dark
The first instalment of a two-part BBC production of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre aired on the ABC last night. It’s always interesting seeing a new interpretation of a classic novel by a well-known author, and this one gets it mostly right. The sheer awfulness of Jane’s early life with her stone-cold aunt and mean cousins, and later at the dreadful Lowood School is evocatively portrayed.
Thornfield Hall, the home of her new master, Mr Rochester, is in a beautiful setting, although the house itself is portrayed as far gloomier than one imagines from the novel. One wonders how the producers will manage to make Ferndean Manor, Rochester’s later home, even more insalubrious than Thornfield.
Both lead actors are very well cast, although Toby Stephens as Rochester is perhaps more attractive than he ought to be. Miss Ingram, Rochester’s potential bride, is exactly as I imagine her, all fair English beauty and superficiality.
Some of the directorial tricks I found mildly irritating, such as Jane’s “I’ll never wash this hand again” antics after she shakes Rochester’s hand for the first time. Even if you haven’t already read the novel, it’s clear that she’s beginning to fall in love with him, so there’s really no need to be so obvious.
One also wonders why a completely new character has been inserted, in the form of the gypsy lady, with Rochester hiding behind a screen as he listens to her prophecies. In the novel, Rochester himself impersonates the fortune-teller, as a clever means of establishing certain information that he would have had difficulty in discovering otherwise. Never mind, it’s a movie, and I wait eagerly to see what Part II will bring, particularly what they will make of St John Rivers, Jane’s terrifyingly virtuous cousin.