Phryne Fisher is on holiday. She means to take the train to Sydney (where the harbour bridge is being built), go to a few cricket matches, dine with the Chancellor of the university, and perhaps go to the Arts Ball with that young modernist, Chas Nutall. She has the costume of a lifetime, and she's not afraid to use it.
When she arrives there, however, her maid Dot finds that her extremely respectable married sister Joan has vanished, leaving her small children to the neglectful care of a resentful husband. What has become of Joan, who would never leave her babies? Surely, she hasn't run away with a lover, as gossip suggests?
Then while Phryne is visiting the university, the very pretty Joss and Clarence ask her to find out who has broken into the Dean's safe and stolen a number of things, including the Dean's wife's garnets and an irreplaceable illuminated book called the Hours of Juana the Mad. An innocent student has been blamed.
So Phryne girds up her loins, loads her pearl-handled .32 Beretta, and sallies forth to find mayhem, murder, black magic, and perhaps a really good cocktail before more crime erupts in Sydney.
In one of Greenwood's stronger entries in her acclaimed series set in 1920s Australia (Ruddy Gore, etc.), her elegant, larger-than-life amateur sleuth Phryne Fisher travels on holiday from Melbourne to Sydney, where she confronts a pair of pressing mysteries as soon as she washes off the grime of her train trip. Joss Hart and Clarence Ottery, young gentlemen escorts who are students at the University of Sydney, ask Phryne to exonerate a friend accused of stealing exams from a safe in the dean's office. Then Phryne's maid, Dot Williams, discovers her sister, Joan, has disappeared, leaving two young children in the care of Joan's loutish husband. With typical aplomb, Phryne juggles both puzzles, even as she crosses swords with a sinister cult leader who may have at least some of the answers she seeks. The author artfully blends action, humor and deduction.