Miss Phryne Fisher hasn't always inhabited the opulent, exciting world of 1920s Australia. In her former life, Phryne lived on the streets in a suburb of Melbourne called Collingwood. With her sister Janey for company they scrounged for food and managed to avoid the heavy hand of her drunken father. When Janey was abducted on a trip to the circus Phryne was absolutely devastated.
World War 1 took a heavy toll on her family's ancestry and the down-at-heel Fishers of Collingwood suddenly found themselves in a lofty estate in the English countryside with Phryne's parents being elevated to the titles of lord and lady. A few years at a stuffy boarding school showed Phryne that there was more to life than finishing school manners and high teas, so she fled to join an all-women ambulance brigade attached to the French Army.
Her sense of social justice is sculpted by her past and as a result she insists on equality within her household. Phryne will never forget where she came from, and even though she is living a life of luxury in 1928 she won't rest until she solves the mystery of her sister's disappearance.