By Anne Jorgenson
Phryne Fisher (pronounced /frai-ni/) is the main character in Kerry Greenwood’s book series Phryne Fisher Mysteries and the television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
A young private detective, Phryne is a successful, independent woman, and in 1928 Australia, that’s a pretty impressive feat. Not only was misogyny and every other antiquated frame of thought rampant in those days, but Phryne also didn’t have the fancy technology we have today to solve her mysteries.
Comparable to Sherlock Holmes (she even lives in 221B), Phryne has her own detective agency and uses her many talents and wealth to help people that can’t or won’t go to the police for assistance.
Constantly flaunting her own sexuality and in no way afraid to verbally (and occasionally physically) smack any misogynistic imbeciles that have the audacity to try and tell her what to do purely because she’s a she, Phryne refuses to take undeserved flack from anyone and constantly trumps everyone by proving to society that he is as capable as or even more capable than her male counterparts.
There’s never a dull moment in Phryne’s life, what with all the adventures (and sometimes misadventures) she gets into when trying to solve a case, and with plenty of references to a varied and colorful past, she’s a great character.
Not only is Phryne an amazing detective, but she also knows how to handle herself – in every sense – and is incredibly vocal about any injustices she sees. Phryne also has a number of unique skills, which comes in handy for solving those tough mysteries. Throughout the show, there are constant references to her time in the war, and whenever she has a newly discovered skill, there’s yet another explanation from her varied past.
Phryne was born into a poor family in Melbourne, but after her family members in England passed away, her father became the heir to a fortune. She also inherited a part of that fortune (which includes a fancy-sounding title) and eventually moved to Europe to help in the war. During the time between the war and her return to Melbourne, we know that she travelled and eventually opened her own detective agency.
Phryne also surrounds herself with a slew of other amazing people, and a lot of those people are also kickass women, like Dorothy Williams, Prudence Stanley and Dr. Mac.
Dorothy Williams, affectionately called “Dot”, actually met Phryne while she was on a case of sorts. As Phryne’s assistant and live-in housekeeper, Dot slowly found her voice and discovered her own worth. Pre-Phryne Dot was a good Catholic girl, always following the rules to the exact letter. Back in the 1920s, those rules could be and often were pretty restrictive, especially if you weren’t a Caucasian male. After Dot went to live and work with Phryne, she realized that that doesn’t have to be the case, and watching her strike the balance between her religion and her autonomy is a super rewarding experience.
With her young assistant, Dot, and her two dock-working associates Bert and Cec (/ces/ as in short for Cecil), Phryne has plenty of coworkers to help her in her endeavors, and that’s not to mention her friends in the police. Detective Jack Robinson is Phryne’s by-the-book counterpart and love interest (at least in the TV series). He starts as yet another skeptic, but as the show progresses he becomes not only a believer but also a sort of partner to Phryne.
With three seasons of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries currently on Netflix and twenty published books with more to come, you won’t be short on good, clever content for a while.