Publication: 2nd January 2018 by Poisoned Pen Press
On a secret mission to investigate the death of a prominent Australian in Munich, Rowland Sinclair comes face to face with the upper echelons of the Third Reich.
It’s 1933, and the political landscape of Europe is darkening. Eric Campbell, the man who would be Australia’s Fuehrer, is on a fascist tour of the continent, meeting dictators over cocktails and seeking allegiances in a common cause. Yet the Australian way of life is not undefended. Old enemies have united to undermine Campbell’s ambitions. The clandestine armies of the Establishment have once again mobilised to thwart any friendship with the Third Reich.
But when the establishment’s man in Munich is killed, desperate measures are necessary.
Now Rowland Sinclair must travel to Germany to defend Australian democracy from the relentless march of Fascism. Amidst the goose-stepping euphoria of a rising Nazi movement, Rowland encounters those who will change the course of history. In a world of spies, murderers and despotic madmen, he can trust no-one but his friends and companions, an artist, a poet and a brazen sculptress.
Plots thicken, loyalties are tested and bedfellows become strange indeed. On a secret mission to investigate the death of a prominent Australian in Munich, Rowland Sinclair comes face to face with the upper echelons of the Third Reich.
I first came across Sulari Gentill last year, when I read her excellent book, Crossing The Lines, which I loved for its excellent writing and imaginative ideas. I noted at the time that she is also responsible for a series of historical crime fiction novels set in the 1930s about Rowland Sinclair, the gentleman artist-cum-amateur-detective and so I was pleased to be able to review the latest in this series, published in the UK today.
I really liked the tone of this book. I can see small echoes of Dorothy L. Sayers Wimsey, but the key tone for this series is that the character of Rowland Sinclair is much more akin to E. W. Hornung’s Raffles. So think a 1930’s Australian Raffles without the burglary but with inherited wealth and an excellent family name and with a more bohemian set of friends; including a woman artist who provides his unrequited love interest as well as sharing his sense of danger and the dramatic; a Jewish poet; a communist painter and a one eared greyhound named Lenin.
In previous books this quartet has solved mysteries, but in this, the 4th book in the series, the game is infinitely more serious. For this is the time of the rise of National Socialism in Germany and the world is on edge.
Rowland is called upon by the Australian old guard establishment, and virtually blackmailed into accepting, to travel to Germany and investigate the connections between the Australian New Guard politician, Eric Campbell and the fascist movement. Rowland is advised that a previous infiltrator into Campbell’s team, Peter Bothwell, has died in suspicious circumstances and Rowland is also asked to see what he can find out about this death while he is there.
I found the historical data to be very well researched and I learnt quite a lot about Australia and Eric Campbell’s New Guard and his approach to fascism.
Though these are dark times and this book reflects that well, there is also a lightness and humour to Gentill’s writing that carries the reader along and manages to convey a bohemian joy amongst a savage and brutal political time. It is, I think, the humanity and morality of Rowland Sinclair and his companions that truly sets the compass against which everyone else’s actions are judged.
Gentill also has a real poke at some historical figures. Here is the completely absurd Unity Mitford; the unfortunate Eva Braun and the scheming supplier of uniforms to the Third Reich, Hugo Boss.
Although not quite what I was expecting, Gentill has managed to surprise and delight as well as educate this humble reviewer. Highly recommended.
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.