The Netflix Queue: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

It’s not really a secret that I love historical romances and historical stories; they’re pretty much always a fascinating glimpse into a different time. I also enjoy mysteries. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, an Australian TV series based on a book series by Kerry Greenwood, is so far up my alley it’s not even funny.

Miss Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis)

Miss Phryne Fisher

Set in Melbourne, Australia in the late 1920s, Phryne Fisher is returning to her home city after years abroad. She’s got an ulterior motive for coming back, though: she’s looking to solve her sister’s disappearance from years before. But in the meantime, she decides to become a private detective, and her path regularly crosses with the uptight Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, much to his chagrin and her delight.

Phryne collects an assortment of people as part of her household in a variety of ways. There’s Dorothy, her companion, a lady’s maid who loses her job and is accused of committing a murder and comes to Phryne for help. There’s Bert and Cec (short for Cecil), two cabbies who end up helping Phryne with some of her field work by going where she can’t. Mr. Butler is, as his name suggests, the butler, and he runs a very tight household and is perfectly willing to roll with Phryne’s eccentricities. Jane is an orphan and Phryne’s ward, and though Phyrne isn’t particularly maternal, she cares about Jane very much.

I don’t think words can adequately express how much I love Phryne. She’s a “modern woman,” which means she’s unmarried, has loads of sex with any number of willing men, and uses birth control. She was with an ambulance service during World War I and spent several years after in Europe. She loves to drive (and drive fast). She’s multilingual, intelligent, observant, and an excellent actress, all of which are great assets when she decides to start her detective work. Phryne suffers no fools, but she’s also kind and generous to those who need her help. She’s an utter delight to watch on-screen.

Phryne and Jack and a boatload of UST

Phryne and Jack and a boatload of UST

Phryne also has LOADS of sexual tension with Jack, who dislikes her at first, but quickly comes around when he realizes how truly helpful she is. Once Jack and Phryne start working together with regularity, the show really takes off, because they balance each other so well and their verbal sparring is so much fun to watch.

It’s also interesting to see how Phryne and Jack are balanced by the secondary couple, Dorothy Williams (Phryne’s companion) and Hugh Collins (Jack’s right-hand man and constable).

Dorothy is a devout Catholic who isn’t nearly as liberal as Phryne, but what I love is that she doesn’t try to change Phryne and Phryne doesn’t try to change her. Dorothy does change because of her association with Phryne, but it’s her own choice to do so. Dorothy finds out she really enjoys working with Phryne to solve crimes, something she never expected, and she really blossoms in her role.

Constable Hugh Collins and Dorothy Williams.

Constable Hugh Collins and Dorothy Williams.

Dorothy and Hugh also have the sweetest relationship. Watching them shyly court each other is an absolute delight.

One of the other points I appreciated was how Phryne was treated as a more modern and forward-thinking woman in an era when women were still in fairly restricted roles. She has the funds and the privilege to be able to live the way that she wants, for the most part, but still faces a lot of pushback from others around her. It’s interesting to see how she defies expectations, faces the issues head-on, or slides her way around them.

The show also has wonderful visual designs. The costume and set designers deserve some awards for how well they bring the world to life and how spot-on their costumes are for the characters. Phryne’s hats alone deserve a post all to themselves. It’s such a rich world, it’s easy to get sucked into, and the jazz music all helps to perfectly set the tone.

Jack and Phryne.

Jack and Phryne.

Overall the series plot is handled really well. Each episode is based around a single murder, with an overarching plot that goes through the entire season, which (as you may recall) is my preferred format for television shows. You can pick up and watch any of the episodes in just about any order without getting too lost, which makes it easy to get into when you don’t have time to binge-watch the whole thing.

The first two seasons are my favorite, both with the plots and the way they handle the characters. The third is still very enjoyable, but it stumbles a bit in a few ways (how it handles Hugh’s character in particular), and being a few episodes shorter than the other seasons doesn’t help.

Despite that, the series ends on a high note, and personally I was very satisfied (though I would obviously be so very here for it if they ever decided to do a fourth season). Some people felt the ending was a bit cliffhanger-ish; personally, I liked it and felt that we did get a resolution that had been a very, very long time in coming.

This series is amazing, and I’ve watched the whole thing twice through on Netflix already (and I’ll probably do it a third time, if not more). If you like mysteries, snappy dialogue, and wonderful characters, then you really, really should give this show a watch.

As of this post, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is still available for streaming on Netflix.

The Critic Gets an Award

Well, my dear friend/co-ML Rebekah has tagged me in an “11 Questions” game, and bestowed upon me the Kreativ Blogger award.

Kreative Blogger Award

Shiny!

For the 11 questions game, I have to tag 11 more people and come up with 11 more questions. For the Kreativ Blogger award, I have to give you 10 facts about myself and give the award to 6 more people.

HAHAHAHAHAHA yeah no. I don’t read that many blogs.

So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll answer the questions and give you the facts, and I will pass on the blog award to at least one deserving blog.

But I want you, dear readers, to answer my 11 questions in the comments. 🙂

11 Questions

1. What is your current writing project?
I have two. One is finishing up the first draft of the steampunk story I was working on for NaNo, and the other is editing the fantasy novel I wrote originally for NaNo 2006.

Drafts 1 and 2

Fantasy novel draft 1 is on the right. Draft 2 is on the left. Together, that's more than 1000 pages. Yes, I've got some editing to do.

2. Why are you writing it?
With my steampunk novel, I’ve just had a lot of fun writing it, and I would like to finish the draft so that I have something to come back to later when I start rewrites. (I’ve never had good luck with trying to rewrite a story without having at least finished the first draft.)

My ’06 NaNo novel actually started life as a short story I wrote for a creative writing class when I was 14. I had always wanted to turn it into a novel, but it wasn’t until 2006, when I signed up for NaNo two days before November 1, that I finally did it. And even then, it was in part because I didn’t have time to think up anything else.

It’s remained on my mind ever since. I love the story, the characters, and the world that has slowly taken on a life of its own. I’ve completely rewritten it TWICE and I still love it. Now it’s on the third go-round and I imagine there are at least two more in the pipe before it’s ready to send out.

I’m writing it because it’s a story I need to tell, and more importantly, it’s a story I want to tell.

3. Do you have any pets?
I have a 7.5-year-old cat named Hector, breaker of horses. Yes, he is named after the character in The Iliad.

He is also called Hecky-poo, Kitty, Baby Boy, and Shut The Hell Up, You Stupid Animal, It’s Six In The Damn Morning.

Hector, breaker of horses

"Leave me alone, woman, I'm trying to sleep." "Think about that when you start yowling to go outside at 6 a.m."

4. What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?
“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” — Dorothy Parker

One can define “worst” in so many ways. For this, I will not count books that I did not finish, so I can’t talk about the truly worst book I’ve ever read. I can’t even remember the name of it, but it was a self-published romance where the heroine ran a dance studio by day and was a stripper by night to make ends meet. The hero’s grandfather or favored uncle had just died, and said grandfather/uncle had left quite a bit of money to the aforementioned dancer. The hero was trying to figure out why.

No, it did not get better.

But, as I said, I never finished it, so I don’t think I can comment on it merely because I was aware of its existence.

(Side note: YOU GUYS. I FOUND IT. I was positive I’d tossed it when I moved into a house last year, but no. It was shoved in the bottom of a drawer in my closet. What do you think? Should I read it?)

So, I’ll just talk about books that I actually, against all odds, finished.

Worst Series: The Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels
I actually made it through three books in this series before I threw it down and said, “Screw this.” Basic premise is that all these women have been wronged (badly) by someone in their lives, and traditional justice did nothing to the perpetrators.

One of these women just happens to be a ridiculously wealthy widow whose (butler? Manservant? I forget) is a former MI6 agent, or something of that nature. So she gathers all these women together to use her resources to exact revenge on those that did them wrong.

I read fantasy on a regular basis and I had trouble suspending my disbelief for this story. By book three, I had had about three too many “Oh, come on” moments. It was supposed to be a story about empowering women, but the only character I really liked was the male lawyer and love interest for one of the main characters. The women themselves? Not so much.

There were also a number of grammar and spelling errors, which wouldn’t normally bother me, but they happened at a frequency that made me wonder if anybody had actually proofed this series. I will never, for the life of me, understand Fern Michaels’s popularity.

Biggest Disappointment: Fury by Laurann Dohner
I downloaded the sample on the Kindle because it sounded interesting. And the sample, which was the prologue and the first page of the first chapter, was good and intriguing. Unfortunately, the book went downhill but quick after that.

Terrible writing and wooden, repetitive dialogue drove me up the wall. “Subtlety” was a foreign concept. It felt like the author was banging me over the head with what she wanted me to know. And it annoyed me to no end because I actually liked the concept and the story. The execution was just horrendous.

I’m still ticked that I spent $8 on that.

Worst Characters: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
I will forgive a lot in a book if I like the characters, but if I spend 200 pages wanting to punch them in the face, that’s a bad thing. I have never loathed a main character as much as I loathed Bella (and I use the word “character” here loosely), and Edward was creepy and selfish. And when a book makes me angry enough at the end that I have to restrain myself from pitching it across the room, well, I think it deserves a mention on this list.

And then Buffy staked Edward - by indirox at DeviantArt

Oh, how I wish.

5. Favorite TV show and/or movie?
Seriously? I reviewed movies for four years, for God’s sake. This could be a post in and of itself.

Ah well. The short version:

Favorite TV shows no longer airing: Firefly, Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Favorite TV shows currently airing: Doctor Who, Castle, and White Collar. (Expect an article sometime soon extolling the awesomeness of Peter and Neal.)

Favorite movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Favorite Pixar movie: The Incredibles
Favorite traditionally animated movie: Beauty and the Beast
Favorite romantic movie: The Princess Bride
Favorite superhero movie: Batman Begins
Favorite Christmas movie: Tie between Die Hard and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated one)

6. What can you always count on to get you inspired?
Depends on what I need to be inspired for: a current project, or if I’m just looking for ideas.

For current projects, I’ve got probably five or six different playlists that I’ll stick on repeat, depending on what I want to write.

For my steampunk novel, Abney Park has been a fantastic inspiration. Frankly, I think I could make a drinking game out of all the references to them and their songs that snuck in throughout the month.

When I was at a particularly bittersweet point in my ’06 NaNo novel, I listened to a handful of songs from the LOTR score over and over, particularly “Into the West,” “May It Be,” and “The Breaking of the Fellowship.”

But as for ideas? It seems like the best place for me to find those has been, believe it or not, playing Final Fantasy games. 🙂 Both Final Fantasy Tactics and FFVII have served as inspiration for stories.

Another place I go for inspiration is coolvibe.com. If I find a picture on there that intrigues me, I save it to come back to later. A couple of those were actually the inspiration for my 2010 NaNo novel.

Summer Time - from CoolVibe.com

And mark my words, I will write a story for this picture one day.

7. What book did you read that inspired you to truly WRITE?
It wasn’t a book. It was a movie. I had been writing my own little stories off and on for years, but it wasn’t until I was 11 that I started writing every day. I saw a story that jumped out, grabbed me, and wouldn’t let go. I had to write because of it.

It was Star Wars: A New Hope.

8. Favorite food?
Pad thai.

9. Worst thing you ever wrote?
I have a handful of movie reviews you will NEVER read on this site. And let’s just say some of the stuff I wrote between ages 11-14 wasn’t that great either.

10. Best thing you ever wrote?
I don’t know about the best thing, but I’m fairly proud of a short story I wrote for a class back in college, called “Handle with Care.”

11. Place you’ve visited that inspired you the most?
That would be a little island off the coast of Greece called Kea. I went there the summer of 2004 for a screenwriting seminar, and spent a week sitting on the tiny balcony of my hotel room, staring out at the island and just typing away…not on any screenplays, but on the climax of a novel. Still have that scene, but I’ve never written the book for it.

10 Facts about the Critic

1. My current obsession: the TV show White Collar. That show is hilarious. As I said earlier, expect an article sometime soon.

White Collar - Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) - photo credit NBC Universal

I love these men with all my geeky little heart.

2. I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King twice before it actually came out in theaters: once at a 9 a.m. press screening the Friday before, and then at 10 p.m. the day before it debuted, when I went to Trilogy Tuesday, where they showed all three movies back-to-back. Hands-down the most fun I’ve ever had in the theater.

3. My day job is as a project manager and front-end developer for a design and marketing company. I can talk about CSS almost as much as I can talk about movies. Blogging with WordPress.com actually frustrates me because I can’t customize the CSS as much as I want.

4. I won an autographed copy of Long Lost by David Morrell at the OCW Writer’s Conference in Eureka Springs last year.

5. I dressed up as Arwen for Halloween one year, elf ears and all.

6. For nine months after I graduated college, I worked at a radio station in southern Oklahoma that also published a monthly newspaper. I was both article writer and morning show co-host on the radio. Last I heard, they were still airing some of the commercials I did while I was there, some five years ago now.

7. I have played and beaten all but three of the Final Fantasy games: FFVIII, FFIX, and FFXIII. I don’t count XI because that’s an MMO. My favorite is FFXII, but FFVII and Tactics both have very special places in my heart.

8. I’ve done NaNo every year since 2006, except for 2007 because I forgot November was NaNoWriMo until about November 15. This is in large part because I was playing World of Warcraft and I had fallen in love with my little troll mage.

Agro Control - a mage's greatest weakness

Yes, this is about what it's like, especially if you have a crappy tank.

9. My phone’s current default ringtone is the Doctor Who theme. Before that, it was “One-Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII. And before that, it was “He’s a Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

10. I don’t do coffee. I will, however, drink my weight in black tea.

I bestow the Kreativ Blogger award upon:

Three Ring Mom – I have known Chelsie since I was 13 years old, and yes, she’s always been this hilarious.

And now: my 11 questions for you guys!

What’s the last movie you saw in a theater?
If you could go anywhere in the world for a month, where would you go and why?
What’s one item in your life that you can’t live without, not counting basic necessities?
What’s one item on your bucket list?
What’s your favorite “comfort” book, the one you read just to make yourself smile?
What’s one thing you wish you would do more?
What’s your caffeinated beverage of choice?
What’s a story clichĂ©/trope that you like?
Who is your favorite movie villain?
What’s your favorite kind of story to read?
What’s your phone’s default ringtone?

Note: You don’t have to answer all of them (or any of them) to comment, but I think it would be fun!