On her way out for cocktails in the iffy Melbourne neighborhood called Little Lon, Phryne Fisher rescues a young woman who is about to be attacked by three menacing thugs. The woman, Polly Kettle, tells Phryne she is a reporter on a hot story about three young, unmarried, pregnant women who disappeared from a nursing home where they were waiting to deliver their babies. During most of their pregnancy, the women had been made to atone for their sins by being forced to work in the Magdalen Laundry at the Abbotsford convent.
The day after the Little Lon adventure, Polly is kidnapped, and Phryne's friend, police detective Jack Robinson, asks Phryne to help find Polly, since Phryne is better suited to wheedle information from the brothelkeepers Polly had been asking about the missing women. Phryne's investigation takes her from the brothels to the slum home of one of the victims, to the (worse yet, to Phryne) middle-class homes of other victims, to the nightmarish Magdalen Laundry, and more. Even for the normally unflappable Phryne, what she learns about what can happen to unprotected young women is shocking and disheartening.
here. This is one peculiar recipe book. Here's one of the recipes:
Ponche á la Parisienne: Boil 1/2 pint of water and 1 lb. of sugar; when it comes to the thread, add the oleo-saccharum of 1 lemon [I've discovered that is a sweet oil made from citrus peel and sugar] and juice of 2, 1-1/2 pint of brandy, and 1/2 pint of rum; let this heat, but not boil; pour it in a hot bowl; set fire to it; stir it well, and pour into glasses while blazing.
Unnatural Habits will be published in hardcover by Poisoned Pen Press on January 1, 2013. It is currently available in audiobook form from Audible.com.
Note: I received a free publisher's review copy of Unnatural Habits. A version of this review may appear on Amazon and other sites under my user names there.