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Raisins and Almonds [Audiobook, CD, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Kerry Greenwood , Stephanie Daniel , Inc. Brilliance Audio
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 16 2012 Phryne Fisher Mystery (Book 9)

In investigating the poisoning of a young man in a bookshop at the Eastern Market, and the wrongful arrest of one Miss Sylvia Lee, Phryne Fisher is plunged into a world of Jewish politics, alchemy, poison and chicken soup.

Stopping only for a brief, but intensely erotic, dalliance with the beautiful Simon Abrahams, Phryne picks her way through the mystery with help from the old faithfuls—Bert, Cec, Dot and Detective Inspector "Call Me Jack" Robinson. But ultimately it is her stealth and wit which solve the crime—and all for the price of a song....

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From Publishers Weekly

The mysterious strychnine poisoning of scholarly Jewish immigrant Simon Michaels leads to one of the more complex and somber cases in the career of Greenwood's Australian Jazz Age amateur sleuth Phryne Fisher (Urn Burial, etc.). Fearing that the killing may signal a rise in anti-Semitism, affluent community leader Benjamin Abrahams hires Fisher to clear the name of his tenant, bookseller Sylvia Lee. Fisher, only slightly distracted by Benjamin's devastatingly handsome son, quickly exonerates Lee and dashes off in pursuit of the theory that Michaels was killed for a coded message that might be related to the local Zionist movement. Compared with some of the other entries in Greenwood's popular series, the mood is more serious and the identity of the murderer more mysterious, but fans will have no cause for complaint. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Australian social pillar Phryne Fisher's penchant for offbeat lovers involves her in a case that requires the close study of Judaism.Anyone would enjoy dancing with handsome young Simon Abrahams. But that tango isn't close enough for Simon's wealthy father, who wants Phryne Fisher (The Green Mill Murder, 2007, etc.) to investigate the arsenic death of a young student in a bookshop owned by Sylvia Lee, the suspect arrested by Phryne's pal DI Jack Robinson. With the help of her companion Dot, Phryne quickly satisfies herself that Miss Lee is innocent and that the student was killed while looking for something hidden in a book at her shop. The victim has left behind papers written in an obscure Hebrew code and pictures that relate to alchemy. In order to interpret them, Phryne must immerse herself in a world foreign to her, picking up a little Yiddish, interviewing students and a rabbi, learning about refugees, pogroms and Zionism, and along the way enjoying chicken soup and gefilte fish. Since someone clearly feels the information in the coded message is worth killing for, Phryne and her friends, old and new, must crack the code. The clever heroine manages to carry on an affair with Simon, placate his doting mother, improve her knowledge of all things Jewish and ultimately solve a tricky and dangerous case.Another smashing tale of mystery and manners between the world wars. (Kirkus Reviews) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars a la sayers! July 24 2002
Format:Audio Cassette
excellent traditional mystery. Reminiscent of Tey, Sayers, et al.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars lackluster despite the fabulous Phryne Nov. 11 2012
By Miss Ivonne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Many of the historical mystery novels that I read also serve as a window into another world and as an in-depth history class. Most of what I know of Ancient Rome has been culled from the Marcus Didius Falco novels by Lindsey Davis; I have learned so much about the world in the 1920s -- be it Great Britain, Palestine, North Africa -- from the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes series penned by Laurie R. King; everything I know about China's Tang Dynasty I learned from Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee mystery novels. So I appreciate a well-crafted novel that interweaves history into a whodunit.

Unfortunately, that's not "Raisins and Almonds." It's not that author Kerry Greenwood can't effectively and smoothly splice history lessons into her Phryne Fisher novels: She's done so in the past, particularly in Death at Victoria Dock: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, which examined anarchism in 1920s Australia, and The Green Mill Murder: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, which provides a glimpse into life in the untamed, breath-taking Snowy River country during the same time period. However, in "Raisins and Almonds," Greenwood is so taken with teaching us about the Kabbalah, medieval Jewish mysticism, kosher dietary laws, early Zionism and Jews in early 20th century Australia that the history lesson gets in the way of the story. Greenwood even provides a Yiddish glossary at the end of the novel, a two-page bibliography "[i]f anyone would like to duplicate my research" (uh, what's the likelihood of that???) and spends a painstaking two pages elucidating the difference between a schlemiel and a schlimazl, for heavens' sake! At times, the Jews emerge as stereotypes (e.g., Julia Abrahams, the mother of Phryne's newfound Jewish lover, as the archetypical suffocating Jewish mother and Rabbi Elijah as the unapproachable Kabbalah mystic). Greenwood's depiction of virgin Simon Abrahams as a fascinating lover is more part and parcel of Greenwood's adolescent fascination with early 20th century Australian Jewry. Seriously, how probable is it that the experienced and experimental Phryne Fisher is going to be impressed by a mama's boy who has never been with a woman? Greenwood is so determined to provide a glowing portrait of the resilient and adaptable Ashkenazi Jews of early 20th century Australia in "Raisins and Almonds" that, ironically, they emerge as two-dimensional characters.

For those interested in a more three-dimensional -- and better interwoven -- portrayal of Jews in history than you'll get in "Raisins and Almonds," please try Sharan Newman's Catherine LeVendeur series about Jews in 12th century Paris; Ariana Franklin's excellent Mistress of the Art of Death, which elucidates the lives of Jews in 12th century Sicily and England; King's and Dorothy and Sidney Rosen's Belle Appleman series, which is set in Depression Era Boston. As with the early Rabbi David Small novels of the late Harry Kemelman, Faye Kellerman's Rina Lazarus series, and King's Mary Russell novels, these provide an education about the Jewish way of life without swamping the mystery aspect of the novel.

Now, how does the mystery in "Raisins and Almonds" stack up? Even on that level, the novel, the ninth in the Phryne Fisher series, doesn't compare with any of Greenwood's previous novels. A yeshiva student who goes by the Anglicized name of Simon Michaels (actual name: Shimeon Ben Mikhael, an immigrant from Salonika) is poisoned while in a bookstore, and the proprietress gets the blame. A leader of the Jewish community (Simon Abrahams' father Benjamin) hires Phryne to catch the real murderer. As usual, Phryne enlists her faithful maid and companion, Dot Williams; her two "red ragger" pals, Cecil and Bert; and her adoptive daughters to help her discern who really killed Michaels. Usually, the result is a delightful and clever mystery; however, here Greenwood just seems to be going through the motions. You'll figure out how Michaels was poisoned long before Phryne or Detective Inspector John "Call me Jack, everyone does" Robinson do. The identity of the true murderer will, I admit, come as a surprise, and there's a suspenseful climax. Even so, without the unrelieved and clumsy history lessons, the pedestrian "Raisins and Almonds" might have risen to three stars, but no more. Raisins and Almonds is no Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher Mysteries (Paperback)), Flying Too High : a Phryne Fisher Mystery, The Green Mill Murder: A Phryne Fisher Mystery or Blood and Circuses (Phryne Fisher Mysteries (Paperback)). If you're looking to skip one, this is the one.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh Tale Oct. 8 2007
By Ted Feit - Published on Amazon.com
The ninth book in the series now appears (publication in the US follows no order), bringing the Hon. Phryne Fisher into another world--that of the small but religious Yiddish population of Melbourne, Australia during the period between the two World Wars. We find her dallying with young Simon Abrahams, son of a wealthy Jew, exposing her to the language and culture of the world of refugees, rabbis, kosher cuisine, chicken soup, Kadimah, the Torah, Kabala and Maimonides.

Simon's father asks Phryne to investigate the strange death of a young religious student in a bookshop owned and operated by one Miss Lee in a property she rents from Simon's father. She is accused of the murder. Phryne follows the usual course in the investigation, using all her wiles and helpers--her maid Dot, Bert and Cec the Wobbly cab drivers and Inspector Robinson. The task is complicated by all kinds of considerations, including alchemy, mysticism and politics, including Zionism. Phryne has to learn all of the nuances, and even begins to speak a little Yiddish.

While a mystery, the story takes on a very different flavor from that of other novels in the series. It is not only entertaining in the customary manner of the other books in this series, but is informative and the unexpected descriptions of Yiddish culture are authentic.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent Phryne Fisher historical whodunit Sept. 20 2007
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
When her Chinese lover Lin Chung leaves Australia on business in Shanghai, Phryne Fisher finds a handsome diversion, Simon Abrahams at a public dance hall. Soon afterward they compete at the Foxtrot Competition run by the Jewish Young People's Society in which Phryne is the exotic shiksa. They win the contest but lose the "heat" as Phryne is not a member. While much of the Braille Hall ballroom participants debate the ruling of the judges, Simon's Uncle Marek informs his nephew that his father Benjamin wants to meet his dance partner.

Benjamin asks Phryne for a favor. A different Simon, a Jew from Salonika was poisoned at Lee's Books New and Secondhand Shop. The evidence was swept away by the owner Miss Sylvia Lee and the certifying physician Dr. Stein. The police arrest Miss Lee, as the victim owed her money and she is the only person who could easily have slipped strychnine into his tea and clean the cup afterward. Phryne charges him 10 "oy" quid a day with the understanding that she will seek the truth which could be a Jew killing a Jew. As she investigates, Phryne digs deep into the Jewish community in Australia where chicken soup cures most everything and RAISINS AND ALMONDS are a tradition, but can either solve a murder with political implications?

The latest Phryne Fisher historical whodunit is a great period piece that brings to life the Jewish culture in Australia in the late 1920s. Phryne remains a unique protagonist who defies society rules for single women as she does what she wants flaunting society's restrictive dictates. The mystery is clever with a few twists and the way the sleuth finally figures out the case is brilliant as she understands human nature. Readers will appreciate this vivid deep mystery but never look at RAISINS AND ALMONDS the same way as before digesting Phryne Fisher's newest caper.

Harriet Klausner
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very good but... April 21 2014
By lindapanzo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had mixed feelings about this book, the 9th Phryne Fisher mystery from Kerry Greenwood set in 1920's Australia. This one involves the Jewish community and murder at a bookstore.

I love this series. It's among my favorites. I love that I learn about different aspects of 1920's Australia. I love the characters, including Phryne herself and the secondary characters, such as Inspector Jack Robinson, Phryne's servant, Dot, Bert and Cec, the wobbly taxi drivers, and Phryne's two adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth. In this book, all are well-involved in investigating the bookstore murder.

As for my mixed feelings, as I read it, I thought I might be liking this one less because it's the only book in the series where I saw the TV adaptation (which is excellent) before I read the book. Thus, I thought something was lacking for me. Halfway through, I remembered whodunnit.

However, after finishing, I think part of why I liked this one a bit less than the previous 8 books in the series was due to the fact that Greenwood didn't weave in the historical details as well as usual. In fact, I think she overdid things on the Jewish community angle. It was interesting reading about the Torah, Kosher Food, Zionism, and Rabbis. However, there was just too much about these things. It was all central to the murder but, in overabundance, it detracted from the actual mystery.

Despite this small gripe, I still enjoyed this book and am eager to carry on with this series soon.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Run of the Mill - and Not Entirely Satisfying Sept. 11 2014
By Anne Mills - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is number nine in the Phryne Fisher series, but it is hardly run of the mill -- which is not necessarily a good thing. In this novel, Phryne becomes involved with the Jewish community in Melbourne. The author spends a great deal of time on the folkways, dialects, and political preoccupations of members of the group. She does, as another reviewer noted, fall into stereotype at times, but she also brings out the fact that different Jews and groups of Jews have very different attitudes and beliefs. This is all interesting enough (though probably less interesting to a New Yorker than it would be to many Austrialians) but it gets in the way of the story: indeed, it takes it over. The romantic interest is unconvincing, but that's not unheard of for Phyrne's more fleeting affairs. All in all, an atypical Phryne Fisher, and what I want in a series isn't really atypicality.
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