Monday, August 11, 2008

Urn Burial by Kerry Greenwood

Super-sleuth Phryne Fisher is sojourning at Cave House, a Gothic mansion in the heart of Gippsland mountain country. But she soon discovers that her host is receiving death threats, someone is setting lethal traps and the parlourmaid has been strangled to death. It seems Phryne is up to her neck in danger.

How does this connect with a pair of young lovers, an extremely eccentric swagman and an angry outcast heir? Just who is responsible for the mysterious funerary urns which keep appearing around the house? And how can she make time for the luscious Lin Chung?

Phryne's search draws her deep into the darkest dungeons of the house and of the limestone Buchan cavers. Who knows what she will unearth this time.
When Phryne is invited to a house party at Cave House in the Gippsland area outside of Melbourne, she takes along her current beau, Lin Chung, and their servants, the ever faithful Dot and the ever resourceful Li Pen who is Lin Chung's bodyguard. The fact that Lin is Chinese is something of a shock to the guests who are all from the upper echelon's of Melbourne society, and Phryne and Lin have to deal with the not so hidden racism of the time.

Even before the Fisher party arrive at the gothic Cave House there is drama when Phryne hears a gun shot and then they see a young woman emerge from the bush screaming. What Phryne doesn't realise is that she has been invited for a specific reason. The host is being threatened with letters, and it isn't long before Phryne finds that matters are escalating with a number of more lethal traps being set within the grounds. Like Phryne, many of the guests are at the house for a reason, and it is only as the book progresses that everyones agendas are unveiled piece by piece and layer by layer. The group dynamics are affected by a couple of major events. The first is that the river that is near the property is on the rise, and the house guests are all trapped together until the rains cease and the river goes down. There are also the small matters of the mysterious urns that keep on being moved from one place to another, the people who seem to want to get into Phryne's room at night, and the housemaid who has gone missing. Of the guests, Phryne is the only one who knows that the girl is already dead because she saw the body, but when she went to get the hosts the body had been moved and there is no sign of where it might be.

This book felt like a tribute to classic Agatha Christie. There is the house party, the guests who all have hidden links to other guests, the body that Phryne knows is there but that goes missing and it has to be said that Kerry Greenwood really manages to make these really classic mystery ideas feel fresh. The unveiling of the culprits is really very creepy and takes place in a very interesting place.

If there was one thing that did bother me it relates to Phryne's relationship with Lin Chung. She has always been a lover of beautiful young men, but in this book she also has relations with one of the other characters. Lin Chung obviously isn't pleased but it happens anyway. I suspect that the relationship is growing, but I don't really want to see this kind of thing continue. It is probably worth mentioning that the sex is a bit more obvious in this book than I remember it being in the earlier books. Not explicit by any stretch of the imagination just more there.

After being just a little disappointed in the last Phryne Fisher book this was a welcome return to form and I am totally looking forward to getting to the next book. As an added bonus, my interest has been piqued about the Gippsland area in which the book was set, including the Buchan Caves. I can't remember the last time I went into a cave - must be more than 20 years.

Once again, this isn't the cover that I had on the library book I read, but I do so love this new series of covers, and they do fit the series so well that I am just going to go ahead and post with this cover instead of looking for the one I have!


  1. wow, sounds like a great read. i'm reading Nancy Drew to my daughter now, she is enjoying it.

  2. I really enjoy this series!