Acorn Media has introduced American audiences to another great mystery series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Set in 1920s Australia, the mystery series features the thoroughly modern Miss Phryne (pronounced Fry’-nee) Fisher (Essie Davis), who has recently come into a bundle and has no hesitations in spending it. Miss Fisher is young, fun-seeking, and not in the least bit interested in getting married or having children. She is interested in men, and throughout the series manages to have quite a few romances.
The episodes are based on the character and novels written by Kerry Greenwood. Most of the episodes share the same name as Greenwood’s novels. Miss Fisher is aided in her investigations by Detective Jack Robinson (Nathan Page), Constable Hugh Collins (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), and her companion Dorothy “Dot” Williams (Ashleigh Cummings). Her eccentric household is rounded out by ward Jane.
There are 13 episodes on four discs in the Series One DVD. In the first few we are introduced to Phryne Fisher and the people who populate her life. Miss Fisher may be in the grand tradition of a madcap heiress, but she is also as sharp as a tack and willing to take on any adventure. She is drawn towards solving mysteries and helping people, as a puzzle from her own life, the disappearance of her sister, still haunts her. In the first episode, “Cocaine Blues,” circumstance throws her into a murder investigation at a house party. Miss Fisher clears the matter up, while also exposing an abortion ring and cocaine dealer. Her experience gives her the confidence to become a private consulting detective, in the grand tradition of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. During the course of her investigation, Miss Fisher meets housemaid Dot, who had been working as a maid in the murdered man’s household and hires her as a companion.
Dot joins Miss Fisher on a trip to the country, to retrieve her glamorous new car, a Hispano-Suiza, in “Murder on the Ballarat Train.” When the train stalls on the tracks one of the passenger’s bodies turns up very dead, leading Miss Fisher to solve a grisly murder. Miss Fisher’s investigations frequently take her to some of the seedier parts of Melbourne, but she also likes to go out and have a good time at jazz clubs. In “The Green Mill Murder” Miss Fisher and murder both hit the dance hall. When she’s not cutting a rug her search for clues also allows her the opportunity to practice her aviation skills.
Dot is in the forefront when she is kidnapped during the “Death at Victoria Dock.” Miss Fisher must not only solve the murder of a young man, but also rescue Dot. She also finds time for romance with a handsome man who calls himself Peter the Painter. A bookshop (“Raisins and Almonds”) and the opera (“Ruddy Gore”) form the backdrop for her next two cases, both based on novels of the same name. “Ruddy Gore” also introduces Miss Fisher to a new man, Lin Chung.
Miss Fisher’s past always haunts her and informs how she reacts to the people in her life and the crimes she solves. In “Murder in Montparnasse” she must confront some of the demons from her days in Paris when the widow of a painter she posed for, Pierre Sarcelle, turns up and demands her husband’s old paintings. But first Miss Fisher must determine whether Sarcelle’s death, at the Montparnasse train station, was truly an accident.
Women are the victims in her next three cases. In “Away with the Fairies” Miss Fisher must enter the world of magazine publishing to uncover the murderer of a columnist and author. She also encounters former lover Lin Chung, who once again becomes a welcome distraction. Flapper socialite Miss Fisher is charged with refining a group of young ladies in “Queen of the Flowers” in preparation for an annual flower parade. When one of the girl’s bodies washes up on the beach Miss Fisher must find the killer, while also worrying about whether her ward, Jane, will soon leave her household with her birth mother. In “Death by Miss Adventure” a young female factory worker turns up dead and Miss Fisher must determine whether it was an accident or murder. Dot goes undercover to aid in the investigation, but may also be in harm’s way.
The mystery still surrounding the disappearance of Miss Fisher’s sister Jane frame the last three mysteries in the series. In “Blood and Circuses” Miss Fisher goes undercover as a magician’s assistant when a death occurs at the local carnival. Painful memories of her childhood come to the fore as she recalls how her sister Jane disappeared one night when they sneaked into the big top. In Murder in the Dark” a young girl is found drowned at Miss Fisher’s aunt’s house. The elegant sleuth must race to solve the crime – which may also be linked to her own sister’s disappearance. Is the man she believes to be responsible, Murdoch Foyle (Nicholas Bell), still at large, and will his next victim be her ward Jane? The first season wraps up with Miss Fisher’s continued search for Murdoch Foyle in the episode “King Memses’ Curse.” Will Miss Fisher be able to finally resolve what happened to her sister Jane all those years ago – and before Foyle can set his sights on her?
The series’ production values are top-notch, showcasing 1920s Australia in both the settings and costume design. The picture quality is excellent, with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and looks terrific on a large-scale high-definition television screen. SDH subtitles are available. The box set has a total running time of 706 minutes. Bonus featurettes include “The look of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries,” “Meet the Creators,” as well as a set tour and cast interviews. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a real treat for mystery fans and anyone interested in period drama. Essie Davis is a wonderfully charismatic lead, and the even greater news is that there is a second season in the works.