Book review: Murder in Williamstown, Kerry Greenwood

The latest instalment in the Miss Fisher series offers more of the same high jinks from the plucky and ever-stylish detective.

After several years’ absence, Australia’s beloved sleuth, Miss Phryne Fisher, returns in Murder in Williamstown, the stylish 22nd instalment in Kerry Greenwood’s series of detective novels, which began in 1989 with Cocaine Blues. Three decades later, Greenwood’s character remains a popular mainstay of the Australian crime fiction scene – aided in no small part by the successful ABC Television adaptation of Greenwood’s work, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Against a 1920s Australia backdrop, Greenwood’s inimitable sleuthing flapper is faced with multiple – seemingly unconnected – mysteries in Murder in Williamstown. Why is Miss Fisher receiving poison pen letters? What is the reason behind an embezzlement at the Blind Institute? And why is Dot’s fiancé, Sergeant Hugh Collins, acting in such a cold and shady manner?

At first, the poison pen letters are amusing to Miss Fisher – ‘If someone wants me to repent, with an exclamation mark thrown into the bargain, then they’ll just have to wait along with everybody else, for I have no intention of doing so’ – yet soon the trickle of hate mail becomes a flood. Miss Fisher is forced into action when one of her lovers is also threatened by the anonymous culprit.

Miss Fisher sets her adoptive daughters, Ruth and Jane, to investigate the suspicious financial activity at the Blind Institute – while she herself is drawn deeper into the amorous web of Melbourne University English lecturer Jeffrey Bisset. In the middle of this already complex plot, a house party hosted by the mysterious Mr Hong unfolds – and is struck by sudden tragedy.

The elements in the novel that help to ground it in its period setting, such as the history of the Chinese in Melbourne, and the background of the Blind Institute, are incorporated into the plot without ever overwhelming it. But these historical aspects of Murder in Williamstown are thoroughly researched, as evidenced by the bibliography and author note Greenwood offers in the closing pages of her novel.

Read: Book review: Limberlost, Robbie Arnott

After a series of investigations, with her usual combination of wit and charm, Miss Fisher saves the day – delivering an enjoyable detective novel that will delight fans of Greenwood’s fiction.

Murder in Williamstown, Kerry Greenwood
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781760879327
Pages: 281pp
Publication Date: 1 November 2022
RRP: $32.99

Ellie Fisher is an emerging poet, reviewer, and lyric essayist. She holds Honours (First Class) in Creative Writing from The University of Western Australia. Ellie's creative work has appeared in Westerly Magazine, Swim Meet Mag, Aniko Magazine, Gems Zine, and Pulch Mag, amongst others. You can find her at @bodilyofferings on Instagram.