Book 1: Cocaine Blues (aka Death by Misadventure) Synopsis

Warning: contains spoilers!
Cocaine Blues is the first in the series of Phryne Fisher Mysteries. At a party a break in occurs during a blackout and diamond necklace is stolen. Phryne quickly clears up the mystery and the party returns to normal. Impressed with her quick detective work the Colonel asks to meet with Phryne to discuss as personal matter. Phryne meets with the Colonel and his wife at their country estate the next day where it transpires the couple are worried about their daughter who has married an Australian and appears pale, thin and sickly at her last visit. Suspecting poisoning Phryne agrees to take the case, if only to escape the boredom.

Phryne sails to Melbourne on the Orient with her friend Dr MacMillan and after arriving hails a cab driven by Cec and Burt  who load up her mountain of luggage and drop her at her hotel The Windsor after dropping Dr Mac at the Queen Victoria Hospital. After a bath Phryne heads down for a spot of lunch and after an afternoon nap heads down to a dinner of cocktails and lobster mayonnaise. After dinner Phryne changes and take a wander through the Block Arcade.

Meanwhile Cec and Burt pick up a fare who dumps a girl in the back of the cab. At first they think the girl is drunk but on further inspection realise she is sick and bleeding so they rush her to Dr Mac at the Queen Victoria Hospital.

Back in the block arcade Phryne does a spot of shopping picking up a pair of doeskin gloves and a diamante insect shaped barette for her hair. Phryne pauses to tidy her hair in a mirror and notices a scruffy girl holding a knife in the reflection. Phryne invites the girl (Dot) to tea and discovers Dot was planning to kill the son of her employer who has just fired her for "shamelessly pursuing her son" when in fact the son had been harassing her. After offering Dot a job Phryne takes the knife and cuts the young mans braces and undergarments while he is boasting to friends about him conquests leaving him exposed and embarrassed.

Back at the hospital Dr Mac examines Alice and discovers she was the victim of an illegal abortion. Alice is feverish and suffering from Sapraemia. The next day Bert and Cec follow Dr Mac to the police station to inform Detective-Inspector Robinson of the incident and give a description of the man who dumped Alice in their cab. The detective recognises the description but cannot catch the abortionist.

Meanwhile Phryne takes Dot back to her hotel where she baths and gets a change of clothes. The next day while Phryne is lunching with Dr Mac and attending the cathedral Dot delivers all her calling cards and tidies her mess of clothes. Whilst in church Phryne meets Mr Robert Sanderson MP of Toorak. After church Phyrne meets Dr Mac at the hospital where they stop by the nursery and look in on Alice. Dr Mac informs Phryne of what happened to Alice.

After lunch Phryne returns to the hotel where she find the room pristine and Dot attending her mending. An invitation to dinner with Melanie Cryer has been left for her.  Phyrne starts to investigate the illegal abortionist by tyring to obtain addresses. Dot contacts an old friend who might have one.

The next day Phryne and Dot go shopping for some new clothes for Dot and Prhyne picks up a stunning Erte dress at Madame Olgas. After lunch and a visit to an Elizabeth Arden beauty parlour Phryne returns to the hotel to dress in her new dress for dinner at the Cryers.  At dinner Phryne is seated next to Robert Sanderson MP and also recognises the Hon. Robert Matthews (the jeweled necklace thief who had been banished to Australia).

Mrs Cryer introduces Phryne to the Princesse de Grasse in attendance along with the premier danseur and danseuse of the Chapanie des Ballet who she sponsors. Phyrne promises to visit the Princesse. Phyrne is also introduced to Lydia Andrews (the lady she promised to investigate) and her husband John.  Phryne immediately dislikes them recognising John as a domestic tyrant and his wife as clingy.

Phryne converses with Lydia and discovers Lydia's dislike of Robert Matthews and his questionable business dealings with her husband. Lydia invites Phryne to luncheon which Phryne agrees to before she is whisked away by Sascha De Lisse the dansuer for a dance. Sasha informs Phryne that he has seen her dance before in Paris and Phryne wonders if he is trying to blackmail her. She tells Sascha she finds him attractive but cannot be blackmailed.

After the dance the Princesse tells Phryne that she suspects Lydia's illness is caused by cocaine. The Princesse has come from Paris chasing the King of Snow as her daughter died from cocaine use. She asks Phryne for any information she has and to accompany her to Madame Breda's turkish bath.

After dinner and a performance by the premier danseur and danseuse of the Chapanie des Ballet Phryne leaves the party and decides to walk. Phryne had walked over a mile when she is disputed by a commotion and a body comes barreling into her. It is Sascha. Phryne disguises him as a tipsy companion just before two men come looking for him. Phryne manages to get rid of the men and realises Sascha has been stabbed luckily a taxi arrives at the moment and it happens to be Cec and Burt. They take Sascha back to the Windsor and Phryne inquires about Alice. Cec and Burt inform her they have been collecting numbers for back street abortionists and they agree to meet up at a public phone box to call around and find their butcher.

Phryne takes Sacha up to her room throws off her dress so it doesnt get blood stained and attends his wound. A slash to his bicep. Sasha comes around to find Phryne in her undergarments. Sascha tells Phryne that he went to investigate a cocaine drop off and got caught. His wound dressed Phryne made up a bed for Sascha on the sofa and then went to bed.

The next day after some tea, asprins and a restorative bath Phryne attended the Turkish bath with the Princesse. They are met by Madame Breda and after a sauna and massage the Princesse purchases cocaine by Madame Breda's sister Gerda. Prhyne purchases the cocaine from the Princesse and sends it to Dr Mac for analysis along with one she finds in her pocket labelled 'beware of the rose'. After that Phryne purchases a packet of bicarbonate of soda and after taking in a newsreel returns to the hotel to dress for Lydia's luncheon.

At the luncheon Lydia is giving out business advice to two friends Ariadne and Beatrice and advises against dealing with Bobby Matthews who she is sure is a con man. After luncheon Phryne invites the ladies to lunch with her at the Windsor and dashes off after feeling increasingly unwell.

Phryne returns to the hotel and ordered a emetic after suspecting her tea at Madame Breda's had been spiked and after purging her system went to bed. While in bed Phryne hears someone enter her room and say 'That'll fix her' before leaving. Phryne crept into the room and noticing her coat has been moved went to check it. When she did another small package falls out which she quickly flushes down the toilet and went back to bed.

When Phryne awakes she is not alone in bed Sascha has come to join her and she can no longer resist his charms. Sascha goes to leaves and Phryne goes to bath before Dot returns. But when she answers her door for the tea tray she is greeted by the manager who tells her the police are downstairs and have a warrant to search her room for drugs. Phryne, Sascha and Dot (who has just arrived back and see the police downstairs) search the room finding another package of drugs which they flush. They then tidy the room and invite the police in.

The police search the room and check Phryne coat whereby her package of Bicarbonate falls out. They check it and realise it is bicarb and then attend to the personal searches. Phryne agrees to the search on the proviso that the detective-inspector is searched to. The policemen is confused but agree after stating they could arrest them and take them to the station to be seached. At hearing this Phryne disrobes and states that if they tried to take her to the station they would have to take her naked so they police agree to the searches.

The ladies are searched and nothing found but a small package is found attached to  Senior-constable Ellis' chest who Phryne suspects had been bribed with money. Ellis confesses he was paid 50 pounds by a woman who he spoke to over the phone to plant the drugs in Phryne's room. Ellis picked the drugs up from the GPO and was told if he didn't do it she would kill his wife and kids.  Phryne ask the police not to sack Ellis as she is sure she can catch the cocaine dealer within 10 days.

After the police leave Phryne asks Sasha to tell her everything he knows about the King of Snow. Sasha tells Phyrne how his mother was addicted to cocaine as the King of Snow kept supplying her and they lost all their valuable jewels and money paying for it. They even lost a collar of diamonds made for Catherine the Great. So they come up with a plan to make the dance company and perform to Parisian Society and keep a look out for someone wearing the necklace then they would have their King of Snow. One night they spotted the necklace so they question the woman wearing it but she said that the necklace was borrowed from an American who had bought the necklace and gave him the name. Sasha refuses to share the name with Phryne as he want to kill the man but eventually gives up the name Andrews. Sasha also gives Phryne the address of the drop in Toorak which he had been at the night he had been injured.

Sasha says he got the information about the drop from Gerda at the bath house. Madame Breda carries the drugs and distributes them at her customers houses when she visits them with Gerda to massage them.

The next day Dr Mac calls at the hotel to advise Phryne that the package that appeared in her pocket with the warning was pure cocaine but the large one she bought from the Princesse was just salt. After breakfast Phryne acompanies Sascha to Scotts hotel to talk to the Princesse.

When Phryne questions the Princesse about the salt the Princesse assures her she paid for cocaine and that Breada must have found some reason not to sell. After giving the Princesse the address 79 Llittle Lon Phryne leaves but as she is leaving Phryne hears the Princesse and Sasha having a conversation about whether Phryne paid him. Sasha says she didn't but she will next time and perhaps even marry him. Phryne vows that the Russians would not extract a penny from her.

Phryne goes to tea and opens her mails and finds an invite to dinner from Robert Sanderson MP and a note from Lydia asking her to call as soon as possible. After tea Phryne goes to find a car to hire and comes across a stunning Hispano-Suiza racing car which she hires for $50 a week.

Phyrne picks Dot up from the hotel and ordering a picnic they go for a ride and meet up with Cec and Burt. While eating their picnic Cec and Burt let Phryne know that Little Lon is not a person as the Russian thought but Little Lon Street. They question her about the thugs that attacked Sasha that night and Phryne assures them she would be able to recognise them. Phryne hatches a plan to dress as a prostitute and go to 79 Little Lon to look for the thugs taking Cec and Burt along as bodyguards.

After lunch the group find a public phone box and try out the numbers for back street abortionists. They try a few with no success but the last number is Butcher George. After setting up a meeting with Butcher George Phryne rings the police and sets up for a police woman WPC Jones to meet and capture Butcher George.

 Once the plan to go to Little Lon is made Phryne and Dot head to Paynes for some cheap and nasty clothes for Phryne's disguise. They purchase the clothes and head back to the hotel where Phryne instructs Dot to dress up in the clothes and tatty them up. Phryne then headed straight over to The Andrews to try and talk to one of her maids.

When she arrived Lydia was laid up ill in bed so Phryne had a chance to question the maid about the illness. The maid informs Phryne that the illness only affects Mrs Andrews not her husband and has makes her ill for a few days. The maid states that they are horrible to work for and have been arguing alot since meeting up with Hon. Matthews. Phryne ask the maid and her sister Mrs Andrews ladies maid to deliver a package to Dr Mac.

Then Phryne goes to see Mrs Andrews. Pyrne talks to Mrs Andrews and finds out that the only thing she eats that her husband doesn't are chocolates which her husband buys her. Phryne aks Mrs Andrews if she suspects poisoning and says she will talk to Mr Andrews but Mrs Andrews begs her not to.

After returning to the hotel to change Phryne attended the Melba Gala at the Sanderson home where she met with Dr Mac and asked her to check out any samples she sent for traces of poisoning and then returned to the hotel to find she had received a phone call from the police and a letter from Sasha.

The next day after a refreshing swim Phryne recieved a call from Dr Mac who informed her Butcher George had been caught and the hair and fingernail samples Phryne had sent her were full of arsenic.  Phyryne then dresses in her prostitute grab and heads to Little Lon to catch the thugs.

Phryne headed into the pharmacy at Little Lon accompanied by Cec and Burt and acquires some cocaine. She gives the cocaine to Cec to take straight to Dr Mac and continues spying on other customers. After a while Phryne sees Sasha go into the chemist and ask outright for cocaine.  The thugs who attacked Sasha before appear and Burt recognises them as Cokey, the Gentleman and the Bull. They drag Sasha off and Phryne and Burt try to follow. At this point Cec returns stating the cocaine is real.

Phryne hears Sashas shouts coming from the Madame Bredas Bath house that backs onto the Chemist and climbs over the wall to find him. Sending Cec and Burt to get the police. Phrybe is about to climb through a window when she is attacked by Gerda and so stabbed her and then crept past Cokey into the house.  Phryne manages to sneak into madame Bredas office and finds papers and powder but is caught by Cokey who recognises her and calls for the Bull and the Gentleman they catch her and knock her unconscious.

Phryne woke up the next morning in a room with Sasha. When the Bull realised they were awake he hauls them into another room and the King of Snow appears. It is none other than Lydia Andrews who has recovered from her arsenic overdose. Lydia had been dosing herself with arsenic to build up a resistance to it she was then planning to poison herself and her husband but as she would be resistant she would live and he would die.

Lydia tells Phryne she planned to kill his husband because he was making demands on her as his marital right which she finds disguting. Lydia gives Phryne an ultimatum go into business with her or die by being locked in a sauna naked with Sasha. Phryne tells Lydia that she has already sent a statement to the police detailing Lydia's murder plans and her roles in the cocaine ring with samples of the cocaine.  At this Lydia becomes angry and lock them in the sauna send her thugs off to the hotel, the hospital and the MP's house to find who Phryne has left her statement with.  However all the thugs are quickly apprehended.

Phryne realises that Lydia finds all pleasures of the flesh disgusting so when Lydia returned they start cavorting which Lydia find disgusting and becomes enraged hitting Sasha with her gun. At that moment Phryne throws a shirt over Lydia's head and take her gun then ties her up. At that point Bert and Cec arrived with the police who arrest Lydia. Phryne invited everyone to lunch to celebrate.

Phryne returned to the hotel for a bath and to dress and the met up for lunch with Dot, Cec and Burt, Madame Greda, Sasha, Elli and the Princesse, Dr Mac, Detective Inspector Robinson and WPC Jones.

Before lunch Cec attends the hospital to check up on Alice and proposes she turns down his proposal and tells him to ask again in six months when she is fully recovered and back home with her parents.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful synopsis. I enjoyed it thoroughly!