A successful writer, Madeleine, creates a character, Edward, and begins to imagine his life. He, too, is an author. Edward is in love with a woman, Willow, who’s married to a man Edward loathes, and who loathes him, but he and Willow stay close friends. She’s an artist. As Madeleine develops the plot, Edward attends a gallery show where a scummy critic is flung down a flight of fire stairs…murdered. Madeleine, still stressed from her miscarriages and grieving her inability to have a child, grows more and more enamored of Edward, spending more and more time with him and the progress of the investigation and less with her physician husband, Hugh, who in turn may be developing secrets of his own.
As Madeline engages more with Edward, he begins to engage back. A crisis comes when Madeleine chooses the killer in Edward’s story and Hugh begins to question her immersion in her novel. Yet Crossing the Lines is not about collecting clues and solving crimes. Rather it’s about the process of creation, a gradual undermining of the authority of the author as the act of writing spirals away and merges with the story being told, a self-referring narrative crossing over boundaries leaving in question who to trust, and who and what is true.
Every now and again I come across an author who is so good that it’s hard to believe I haven’t heard of them. Sulari Gentill is awesome.
Crossing The Lines is a difficult book to describe because it is meta-fiction. In this case, the device is that of crime author Madeleine d’Leon, known for writing rather cosy and popular historical mysteries about a Victorian maid.
Madeleine is recovering from her latest miscarriage which has taken a physical and mental toll on her and caused a little distance between her and her physician husband, Hugh.
She has an idea for a new crime novel; this time featuring a writer of literary fiction and she calls him Edward McGinnity; Ned for short. Madeleine is not the kind of writer who meticulously plots her stories. Rather she likes to allow her stories to develop organically and for her characters to take the story in the direction it wants to go.
Ned becomes involved in a criminal investigation when he is attending an exhibition created by his unrequited love, Willow. At this exhibition an art critic is killed and initially in defence of Willow, Ned begins to investigate.
The second strand to Crossing The Lines is that of literary fiction writer, Edward McGinnity. Edward is a bit of a loner; a man who, because he is suffering the pangs of unrequited love, submerges himself in writing introspective literary fiction. Edward’s new book is about a crime fiction author, Madeline D’Leon and he is writing not a crime novel, but is looking at the way in which small events can take on massive proportions.
If all this sounds a bit pretentious, be assured it is anything but. This is a novel written with the lightest of touches. Each chapter starts with either Madeleine or Edward as the writer and the two share thoughts, agents and each other’s jokes until it is impossible to know who the real author is and who is fictional.
As a writer’s affectation, this would be interesting, but this book is so much more than that. It’s a complex and beautifully written look at the writer’s creative process and how easy it can be to blur the line between imagination and reality – especially when imagination proves to be so much better than life.
I really liked this book – it is imaginative, different and above all, beautifully written. I will certainly be seeking out her other works.
Crossing The Lines is published by Poisoned Pen Press on 1st August 2017
About Sulari Gentill
Sulari Gentill set out to study astrophysics, ended up graduating in law, and later abandoned her legal career to write books instead of contracts. When the mood takes her, she paints, although she maintains that she does so only well enough to know that she should write.
She grows French black truffles on her farm in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, which she shares with her young family and several animals.
Sulari is author of the award-winning Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, a series of historical crime fiction novels set in the 1930s about Rowland Sinclair, the gentleman artist-cum-amateur-detective.
The first in the series, A Few Right Thinking Men was shortlisted for Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book. A Decline in Prophets, the second in the series, won the Davitt Award for Best Adult Crime Fiction. Miles Off Course was released in early 2012, Paving the New Road was released in late 2012 and was shortlisted for the Davitt Award for best crime fiction 2013. Gentlemen Formerly Dressed was released in November 2013.
Under the name S.D. Gentill, Sulari also writes a fantasy adventure series called The Hero Trilogy. All three books in the trilogy, Chasing Odysseus, Trying War and The Blood of Wolves are out now, and available in paperback, in a trilogy pack, and as an eBook.