The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #5)

Title: The Green Mill Murder

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: February 2005

Format: Paperback

Pages: 276

Price: $22.95

Synopsis: Phryne Fisher’s fifth mystery intrigues with excitement, glamour, murder, dance halls and blackmail.

Dancing divinely through the murder and mayhem of her fifth adventure, the elegant Phryne Fisher remains unflappable.

Gorgeous in her sparkling lobelia-coloured georgette dress, delighted by her dancing skill, pleased with her partner and warmed by the admiring regard of the banjo player, Miss Phryne Fisher had thought of tonight as a promising evening at the hottest dancehall in town, the Green Mill.

But that was before death broke in. In jazz-mad 1920s Melbourne, Phryne finds there are hidden perils in dancing the night away like murder, blackmail and young men who vanish.

Phryne Fisher’s fifth adventure leads to smoke-filled clubs, a dashingly handsome band leader, some fancy flying indeed across the Australian Alps and a most unexpected tryst with a gentle stranger.

Independent, wealthy, spirited and possessed of an uninhibited style that makes every one move out of her way and stand gawking a full five minutes after she walks by Phryne Fisher is a woman who gets what she wants and has the good sense to enjoy every minute of it!’ Davina Bartlett, Geelong Times

~*~

In her fifth adventure, Phryne finds herself dancing her feet away at a dance marathon where the prize on offer, a car, would ensure a wonderful future for the winner. A night of what began as frivolous dancing, ends in murder, and Phryne is drawn into the case yet again, assisting Detective Inspector Jack Robinson as she endeavours to uncover the murderer, and another case, involving a returned serviceman, whose noted absence has caused quite some alarm in the family. Following the trail of the case to help a young couple caught up in the confusion, and taking on more work to track down the serviceman, Phryne’s adventures yet again see her tango with death and danger, all whilst maintaining the elegance and with the same gusto and exuberance that strikes fear into the heart of her maid, Dot. Phryne must use all of her talents to solve this one, and ensure the best outcome for all.

The late 1920s, with the world on the brink of The Great Depression, half a decade away from Hitler rising to power in Germany, and a decade out from what would become The Second World War, Phryne’s world is one of uncertainty for some, a generation scarred and tainted by a war that took thousands of lives, eloquently shows the divide between classes at the time, and drops hints at the political situation of the time – where Communism was feared, and where women like Phryne were a mystery, a shock and an interest to many. In each story, Kerry Greenwood has shown this world as it was – not in an idealised way, but in a way that touches on the discomfort felt during these times in an accessible way to a modern audience. Phryne’s cases often involve everyday people, unlike the Rowland Sinclair series, which is steeped in even more history and politics, as well as murder during the 1930s, but this works for the series, and each story can be read in isolation or consecutively from one through to twenty. It is a delightful series, and the fifth novel is no exception, taking Phryne to greater heights as she flies over the Australian Alps to solve a case.

Here, she spends time with the missing serviceman, and encounters a wombat with a one track mind when it comes to potatoes – a fact that might just come in handy later. Stuck in the wilderness of the Alps, Phryne must band together with Vic, the ex-serviceman to survive and arrive home in one piece to hear about Dot’s outing to a ball with her beau, Constable Hugh Collins.

In true Phryne style, she tackles brothers pushed to the brink by mothers, mothers who are good at putting on a show to manipulate people, and a host of other characters from the grateful and understanding to the harried and snarky, whose attitudes do little to worry and distract Phryne, whose ability to adjust her behaviour and speech patterns from class to class, and city to country, makes her somewhat of a chameleon. Phryne gets better and somewhat naughtier with each book, and she always finds herself in the wrong place at the right time, much to the horror of her maid and most of the police force, apart from Jack, who seems quite taken with her guts and bravery, and willingness to help out. Where the police often cannot got, Phryne does, and she certainly helps them solve the cases in each book, and ensures the best outcome possible.

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2017 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Update

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a-waltz-for-matildaOn the first of January this year, I embarked on a reading challenge. That challenge was to read as many books by Australian women as possible, and at the beginning of the year, I made a list from books I had that I wanted to read, and came to about six, and so decided to take on the middle level – Miles – to read six books and review four. At the time, I was unsure of exactly how many I would read, and so chose this instead of Creating my Own Challenge and nominating a goal. I had no idea that I would be able to read more than four times my chosen goal by the beginning of August, juggling other review books as well, and trying to read across a broad range of genres.

if-blood-should-stain-the-wattlefairvaleAs at the second of August, I have read thirty books, and hope to read many more by year’s end, but I am not sure how many that will be. It could be ten, it could be twenty, I could even double or triple my goal – depending on what I read and how long it takes me, as some books have taken me a little longer than others, and some have been series, in particular, I began the year by working my way through The Matilda Saga by Jackie French within the first couple of months of the year, a six book saga beginning in 1894 with twelve year old Matilda O’Halloren and working through almost a century, taking the titles from well known bush poetry by poets such as Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, but positioning the stories through the eyes of the women in various to-love-a-sunburnt-countrylooking for rose patersontimes of turbulence and upheaval in Australia: 1894 to just after Federation, with the formation of unions, moves towards federation and women’s suffrage in A Waltz For Matilda, post World War One with the Girl From Snowy River, who despite all odds, saves the valley and gets the horses to safety, a Depression-era circus in The Road to Gundagai, where a young girl escapes from those who would do her harm, and finds a family who cares and nurses her back to health. In book four, To Love A Sunburnt Country, the story enters World War Two, and is told from Nancy’s perspective, a young part Aboriginal girl whose family has always lived and worked on Drinkwater. Books five and six are told in a few perspectives, during the sixties and seventies, during Vietnam and the moon landing. Matilda, Drinkwater and how women are perceived in society through each of these decades and the rights they fight for link the saga and with book seven due out later this year, I am eager to see where we get to go post-1975.

stars across the oceanFollowing this, I have read a variety of historical fiction, flying too highfantasy, Young Adult, general fiction and romance, ranging from ones that felt over the top and extremely clichéd to those that had more essence and plot than just the couple falling in love at first sight. Two of these, Girl in Between and The Hating Game, a Bridget Jones feel to them, and thus made them more enjoyable and a little more realistic, as the characters were not perfect. This challenge has brought me books I might not have ordinarily picked up and in doing so, has introduced me to new areas of interest but also determined what I prefer and what I don’t like.

my lovely frankieAs part of this challenge, I have also been writing articles on small presses: Pantera Press, Magabala Books, UWA Press, The Author People, Serenity Press, Odyssey Books (yet to be published on Australian Women Writer’s Challenge), Xoum, and Transit Lounge, all of the links have been provided here. I have enjoyed image004doing this, especially contacting some of the publishers. Those who have been rather enthusiastic about the challenge have been Odyssey Books, Serenity Press and The Author People.

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One of the highlights so far has had to be getting to be part of the blog tour for Kate Forsyth’s Beauty in Thorns. I always enjoy Kate’s books, and she writes so exquisitely that it is easy to get lost in her worlds and words. I have been trying to read more crime, and one series I would like to read again is Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair, though I have already reviewed those so they will be on my read but not reviewed list when I do so.

Below are the books I have read so far. Most have been fiction, with one collection of short stories and one non-fiction so far, and I am hoping to expand on these two areas as I go:

  1. A Waltz For Matilda (Matilda Saga #1) by Jackie French
  2. The Girl From Snowy River (Matilda Saga #3) by Jackie French
  3. The Road to Gundagai (Matilda Saga #3) by Jackie French
  4. To Love A Sunburnt Country (Matilda Saga #4) by Jackie French
  5. New York Nights by CJ Duggan
  6. Country Roads by Nicole Hurley-Moore
  7. The Ghost By The Billabong (Matilda Saga #5) by Jackie French
  8. If Blood Should Stain The Wattle (Matilda Saga #6) by Jackie French
  9. The Last McAdam by Holly Ford
  10. From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
  11. Draekora (Medoran Chronicles #3_ by Lynette Noni
  12. London Bound by CJ Duggan
  13. Looking for Rose Paterson: How Family Bush Life Nurtured Banjo the Poet
  14. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
  15. Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
  16. The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky
  17. The Song of Us by JD Barrett
  18. Singing My Sister Down and other stories by Margo Lanagan
  19. Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freema
  20. Murder on the Ballarat Train (Phryne Fisher #3) by Kerry Greenwood
  21. Girl In Between by Anna Daniels
  22. The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić
  23. Beauty in the Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  24. The Dream Walker by Victoria Carless
  25. My Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke
  26. Death At Victoria Dock By Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #4)
  27. Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion
  28. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green – post scheduled to go up next week.
  29. Siren by Rachel Matthews
  30. A Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls

This challenge is about reading books by Australian Women, often with strong female characters in them, but not always about Australia. It is a way that participants can work to raise the profile of Australian Women Writer’s, and of writers in general in Australia. The writing and publishing industry in Australia isn’t as big as it might be overseas, but it is none the less just as important to be able to read stories by Australian authors and for Australians all throughout the country to be able to see themselves reflected in the literature that they pick up.

I have been trying to read broadly, and this is only thirty of the seventy books I had read this year. I am hoping that the next few months will bring more variety and surprises. My complete write up for the entire challenge will be available early January 2018.

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Death at Victoria Dock By Kerry Greenwood

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Title: Death at Victoria Dock (Phryne Fisher #4)

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: First published 1992, this edition published March 2005.

Format: Paperback

Pages: 186

Price: $22.95

Synopsis: Phryne Fisher returns in her fourth magical mystery amidst bullets, sexy ex-anarchists, furs, tattooists and silken lingerie.

The devastating Phryne Fisher is under fire again in her fourth mystery.

A very young man with muddied hair, a pierced ear and a blue tattoo lies cradled in Phryne’s arms. But sadly it’s not another scene of glorious seduction – this time it’s death.

The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, beautifully dressed in loose trousers, a cream silk shirt and a red-fox fur has just had her windscreen shot out inches in front of her divine nose. But worse is the fate of the pale young man lying on the road, his body hit by bullets, who draws his final blood-filled breath with Phryne at his side.

Outraged by this brutal slaughter, Phryne promises to find out who is responsible. But Phryne doesn’t yet know how deeply into the mire she’ll have to go – bank robbery, tattoo parlours, pubs, spiritualist halls and the Anarchists.

Along this path, Phryne meets Peter, a battle-scarred, sexy Slav, who offers much more to her than just information. But all thoughts of these delights flee from Phryne’s mind when her beloved maid, Dot, disappears. There’s nothing Phryne won’t do to get her back safely.

~*~

aww2017-badgeKerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher is back, and solving another mystery. This time, she must work with ex-anarchists to uncover who killed the young man who died in her silk clad arms, and find out what has happened to a young girl, Alicia Waddington-Forsythe, who attends the same school as her adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth, and why she has gone missing. Managing both cases, she goes from adoring hostess and mother to undercover anarchist with a change of clothes, and finds that there is one named Peter, who catches her eye in more ways than one, and her style certainly catches his attention, and devotion. He becomes her go between in the anarchist world, and assists her in the case, eager to help, keen to see justice done, whoever the killer is. As usual, the Butlers are there, keeping the secrets that come through the house, as is Dot, who is becoming more and more adventurous with each story, but still maintains her innocence despite Phryne’s influence, and Bert and Cec are always on hand when she needs them.

Throughout the series, Kerry Greenwood’s titular character straddles the divide between what is expected of a woman of the 1920s in Australia and of her class station, yet at the same time, steps away from this as often as possible, feeling comfortable in both skins, knowing a world of poverty and war, and a world of wealth and comfort. Neither world escapes death or disappearance and scandal, though, and this is why she is able to engage so fluidly in both and understand how both worlds work, and the struggles and privileges she herself has been through drive her sense of self and dogged sense of justice, even if she is a tad unorthodox in how she solves crimes, worrying Constable Collins and Detective Inspector Robinson, yet at the same time, they watch in awe as she gets results and access that they can only dream of as they have to work within the confines of the law. Phryne, as a private detective, is not as constrained.

Book four does not disappoint. It has everything from murder to mayhem, order and intrigue, mystery and how society views outsiders and the consequences to people’s indiscretions, crimes and assumptions. Not only does Kerry Greenwood turn gender roles and expectations on their head, and show the spectrum of what women did in the late 1920s, but also turns society on it’s head, showing the flaws in class divisions and how class and status don’t make you better or worse than someone in a class below: in fact, having a character who has experienced both ends of the spectrum allows for the flaws, and the good and the bad for each level in the social structure to be revealed for what they are. The characters are also very Australian, ensuring that the Aussie flavour of literature is well served in bookstores and libraries for Australian readers keen to see their world in books.

Phryne excels in Death at Victoria Dock with the dual mystery to solve, and sets out to achieve results in both cases and in furthering her personal relationships in true Phryne Fisher style, often much to the horror of her maid Dot, who still goes along with whatever Phryne has planned, though makes her concerns known. What i enjoy about this series is that the characters are not merely stereotypes but that their layers and personalities shine through and each book reveals more about them, and shows their growth. It is an engaging series that I am working my way through, and hope to have finished by the end of this year as part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge.

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Murder On The Ballarat Train (Phryne Fisher #3) by Kerry Greenwood

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Title: Murder on the Ballarat Train

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: March 2005

Format: Paperback

Pages: 180

Price: $22.95

Synopsis: In Phryne’s third adventure, Phryne is off to Ballarat for a week of fabulousness, but the sedate journey by train turns out to be far from the restful trip she was planning.

For the elegant Phryne Fisher, travelling sedately is not at all what it seems.

‘Lie still, Dot dear, we’ve had a strange experience.’ But neither the resourceful Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher nor her loyal maid, Dot Williams, are strangers to odd events.

When the glamorous Phryne Fisher, accompanied by Dot, decides to leave her delightfully fast, red Hispano-Suiza at home and travel to the country in the train, the last thing she expects is to have to use her trusty Beretta .32 to save their lives.

What was planned as a restful country sojourn turns into the stuff of nightmares: a young girl who can’t remember anything, rumours of vile white slavery and the body of an old woman missing her emerald rings. And Phryne is at the centre, working through the clues to arrive at the incredible truth before another murder is committed.

Fortunately, Phryne can still find a little time for a discreet dalliance and the delicious diversion of that rowing team of young men.

~*~

aww2017-badgeJourneying to Ballarat on the train with Dot, Phryne is expecting a week of elegance and a break from the bustle of the city. However, Miss Fisher finds herself midst a murder case, a young girl whose memory has disappeared and rumours of white slavery occurring in Melbourne. Returning back to Melbourne with Dot, the young girl, Jane, and the daughter of the murder victim, Phryne sets herself the task of finding out who killed the old woman, and where Jane comes from so she can help her, and engaging in a dalliance with a rowing team from the local university, culminating in events that Phryne had not thought possible.

As always, Phryne engages the Communist drivers, Bert and Cec to help her look into the less savoury aspects, people and locations that are linked to Jane in order to help her, and eventually, another young girl called Ruth. Little does Phryne know that somehow the rowing team and the two cases she picked up on the train are to become linked, and the killer and their secrets revealed.

Kerry Greenwood has succeeded again in creating a female character who simultaneously fits in with the time period she lives in yet also flouts all socially acceptable behaviour for a woman of her standing. She allows the male police to act when necessary, but assists them and uses her feminine wiles to ensnare Detective-Inspector Robinson into helping her, which he does, gladly, and in awe of her.

Set in the late 1920s, during the early stages of the Great Depression that gripped the world during the 1930s, and up to the Second World War, Kerry Greenwood at times hints at moments of Australian history that are significant, though these moments are a bit more prevalent in Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair series, set roughly during the same time, and with a character who is also an amateur detective and gives the police he deals with a run for their money.

A series of historical fiction crime books with a female character who is strong and feminine in equal measures, and whose escapades shock the prim and proper, and traditional echelons of society in a young Australia, merely ten years fresh from a world war and almost three decades old, Kerry Greenwood has captured an essence of the Australian character in a unique way. I am enjoying this series, and look forward to reading more, and hopefully getting through them all this year.

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Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #2)

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Title: Flying Too High (Phryne Fisher #2)

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st June 2005

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $22.95

Synopsis: The second in the classic Phryne Fisher series from Kerry Greenwood, featuring the irresistible heroine Phryne. Whether she’s foiling kidnappers, seducing beautiful young men or simply deciding what to wear for dinner, Phryne handles everything with her inimitable panache and flair.

Danger, excitement and love – this is how the glamorous Phryne Fisher is determined to live her life in her second enticing adventure.

Walking the wings of a Tiger Moth plane in full flight ought to be enough excitement for most people, but not Phryne Fisher, amateur detective, woman of mystery, as delectable as the finest chocolate and as sharp as razor blades.

In this, the second Phryne Fisher mystery, the 1920s’ most talented and glamorous detective flies even higher, handling a murder, a kidnapping and the usual array of beautiful young men with style and consummate ease – and all before it’s time to adjourn to the Queenscliff Hotel for breakfast. Whether she’s flying planes, clearing a friend of homicide charges or saving a child from kidnapping, she handles everything with the same dash and élan with which she drives her red Hispano-Suiza.

~*~

aww2017-badgeThe second in the fabulous Phryne Fisher series, Flying Too High, has Phryne caught up in two cases: the murder of a rich Melburnian and a kidnapping, so she enlists the help of Bert and Cec, the two communist cabbies who assist her with many of her needs. With her talent for getting into mischief, and her ability to outsmart criminals, she assists the police, often to the chagrin of Detecive-Inspector Benton, the fascination, and curiosity and worry at times of Detective-Inspector John “Jack” Robinson, and the horror of her maid, Dot. Using her wits and unconventional methods, Phryne not only helps the police, but is able to sometimes do what they cannot, and solves some cases for them. In Flying Too High, she solves the supposed murder of Mr McNaughton, and the kidnapping of a young child named Candida. She stands out from the crowd, and yet, can blend in, as well. Phryne is a detective whose talents go beyond the usual police work. She often finds herself in the wrong place, at the right time – or as Jack might say, at the wrong time.

In this second adventure, Phryne is determined to solve both cases, to bring ease to McNaughton’s family, give them answers and allow them to move on, and find Candida alive, and get her home to her family. Though her methods are unorthodox, they work, and the police are surprised and pleased, though also astounded at the ease with which she solves cases and brings in criminals they’ve been struggling to solve. But with Phryne on the case, things soon start to turn around, people start talking and when Candida’s kidnapping lands at the door of Phryne, and the parents do not wish to involve the police, it is up to Phryne to solve it alone, becoming embroiled in the search for a criminal the police have been after for a long time, which earns Phryne the respect of Detective-Inspector Jack Robinson, who marvels at how she managed it, yet still has warnings for her about the dangers.

Kerry Greenwood has created a character who fits into the time period she is a part of, but at the same time, flouts conventions and expectations, and steps outside of the confines that society and others may have thought were fitting for her gender, and place in society. Instead, Phrune manages to balance the role of society woman with that of detective quite nicely, and at times, uses her feminine ways to her advantage in several ways. She is a refreshing detective and quite fun – she is by no means wholly conventional in any of her relationships, and insists on calling everyone by their first name, and wishes for them to do the same – a habit that some, such as Dot, cannot break due to societal expectations.

In Flying Too High, Phryne is shown to be capable, and confident, yet flawed. As with all good characters, she stands out against the crowd, and the author has executed her perfectly.

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Cocaine Blues: A Phryne Fisher Mystery by Kerry Greenwood

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Title: Cocaine Blues: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: June 2005

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $22.95

Synopsis: This is where it all started! The first classic Phryne Fisher mystery, featuring our delectable heroine, cocaine, communism and adventure. Phryne leaves the tedium of English high society for Melbourne, Australia, and never looks back.

The first of Phryne’s adventures from Australia’s most elegant and irrepressible sleuth.

The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the green-grey eyes, diamante garters and outfits that should not be sprung suddenly on those of nervous dispositions – is rapidly tiring of the tedium of arranging flowers, making polite conversations with retired colonels, and dancing with weak-chinned men. Instead, Phryne decides it might be rather amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia.

Almost immediately from the time she books into the Windsor Hotel, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings, corrupt cops and communism – not to mention erotic encounters with the beautiful Russian dancer, Sasha de Lisse – until her adventure reaches its steamy end in the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street.

~*~

Phryne Fisher’s life in London is slightly dull, despite the elegant parties she attends, the tedious nature of activities deemed appropriate for the women in her circle have her longing for excitement. Her preference for outfits that leave little to the imagination and that society may deem scandalous, and her raucous driving make her stand out – something Phryne does not mind in the least.

Her zest for adventure takes her across the seas to Melbourne, and the Windsor Hotel, where she meets a variety of characters, and her maid, Dot, begins to accompany her. Soon, Phryne is caught up in a seedy, yet to her, fascinating and exciting world of poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings and false accusations from corrupt cops, looking to take advantage of their position and power on an unsuspecting public. The backdrop of the twenties and the rise of communism in the interwar period, and leading into the tumultuous years of the Great Depression and the rise of fascism in Europe to come, Phryne finds herself looking into where the drugs are coming from and who is poisoning people, and performing back alley abortions that have led to death and serious injury. It all leads to a steamy end in Lonsdale’s Turkish baths, where true identities are revealed, and where people who were once thought to be trustworthy are proven otherwise.

Phryne Fisher’s first outing balances the expectations of gender and class of the twenties, and the delicate sensibilities certain people are assumed to have. It introduces the conflict of communism with other political ideologies and shows that everyone has shades of grey, and you can’t always trust someone because of their standing in society.

The first of twenty books, Cocaine Blues is only a hint of what is to come in Phryne’s world, where political ideologies and societal expectations will certainly always play a part in the way the stories unfold. It introduces the characters nicely, and the way Phryne is described is nicely done – she of the grey-green eyes – it certainly presents an image in one’s mind of the character and what to expect. Set in the twenties, everyone lives in the shadow of World War One, and the Bolshevik revolution. Anti-communist sentiment permeates the storyline and sets the scene. It is a cosy crime series, where the murder is conducted off-screen, and the amateur detective just happens to outwit the police officers, and perhaps everyone else involved as she goes along.

A great read, a divine introduction and a series I would like to continue reading.

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