The nice men at P+O are worried. A succession of jewellery thefts from first class passengers is hardly the best advertisement for their cruise liners, particularly when it is likely that a passenger is doing the stealing.
Phryne Fisher, with her Lulu bob, green eyes, Cupid's bow lips and Chanel travelling suits, is exactly the sort of elegant sleuth to take on a ring of jewellery thieves aboard the high seas - or at least, aboard the SS Hinemoa on a luxury cruise to New Zealand. With the Maharani - the Great Queen of Sapphires - as the bait, Phryne rises magnificently to the challenge.
There are shipboard romances, champagne cocktails, erotic photographers, jealous husbands, mickey finns, blackmail and attempted murder, all before the thieves find out - as have countless love-smitten men before them - that where the glamorous and intelligent Phryne is involved, resistance is futile.
Set in 1928, Australian author Greenwood's enjoyable 15th Phryne Fisher mystery (after 2004's Queen of the Flowers) finds the intrepid sleuth with her Dutch Boy bob, Cupid's bow lips, and fabulous wardrobe sailing on a luxury cruise liner from Melbourne to New Zealand, accompanied by her faithful maid Dot, "a plain young woman of stern moral principles." The P&O shipping line has hired her to look into a rash of jewel thefts aboard their vessels. To aid her in her mission, the company has allowed her to wear the Maharani Sapphire, "a blue stone as big as a doorknob." While Phryne dines with the nobs in first class, Dot picks up gossip from the crew. At a costume party, one of the guests is murdered. Is the death connected to the thefts? While memories of the Titanic linger among the ship's passengers, readers are treated to descriptions of sumptuous meals and snippets of Maori lore, along with a tantalizing mystery. Those who long to revel in a glamorous if imperfect past will be satisfied.