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All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill Preview Reviews

January 23, 2019

Our latest Preview title is All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill.  Set in Shanghai in 1935, the book depicts a twentieth-century Babylon, an expatriate playground where fortunes are made and lost, where East and West collide, and the stakes include life itself. Into this, Rowland Sinclair arrives from Sydney to represent his brother at international wool negotiations. Rowland is under strict instructions to commit to nothing… but a brutal murder makes that impossible. As suspicion falls on him, Rowland enters a desperate bid to find answers in a city as glitzy as it is dangerous, where tai-pans and tycoons rule, and politics and vice are entwined with commerce. Take a look at what our Preview reviewers thought of the book:

‘An interesting mystery, though nothing to get the heart rate up. The storyline meanders along slowly at the beginning, then increases its pace. I felt as though the storyline stopped and started at times, though keeping the reader just interested enough to find out what happens. 5/10 for “All The Tears in China”.’ – Heidi, NSW

‘My first book by Aussie author, Sulari Gentill, but it won’t be my last. So it’s also my first taste of Rowland Sinclair, nine books into the series: I don’t know him as well as others more familiar with the series, but he’s an appealing, can-do sort of guy, intelligent, a bit impulsive but full of integrity, and that’s reflected by loyalty of the friends he attracts. With her superb descriptive prose, Gentill really captures her setting well, enhancing it with quotes from press articles of the era prefacing each chapter. The action and excitement takes off from page one, too, although poor Rowly does get beaten up rather a lot before we reach the heart-stopping climax. As this is set in the international treaty city of Shanghai, Gentill includes a cast of interesting characters, full of quirks and national traits: nobody boring here! It’s easy to see that Gentill has done a good swag of research for her tale, but this is no dry history lesson: the facts drop into the story unobtrusively; there’s also plenty of humour, especially in the banter between the friends. The title is a charming (and meaningful) play on words. Excellent historical fiction!’ – Marianne, NSW

‘I must preface my review by saying that I do not generally read murder mysteries or that I had read any of the previous books of the author so I was not sure whether I would enjoy the read. Having said that, I am glad that I did. This book can be easily read without having read the other Sinclair novels. I enjoyed that Sinclair was almost the anti-hero and he is surrounded by a group of friends who add greater depth to the story. When reading the novel, it reminded me of the Phryne Fischer novels, so would recommend it for those who enjoy Kerry Greenwood’s novels. A great light read…. with lots of twists and turns.’ – Katarzyna, VIC

‘Wherever Rowland Sinclair goes trouble seems to follow him. This book is set in 1935 Australia and Shanghai, which is a melting pot for vice, crime, corruption and murder. When Rowland is sent to Shanghai to oversee the sale of will for his brother once again trouble arises, and readers are taken through a magical and dangerous journey. I highly recommend this book and I will be reading the other books in this series.’ – Deborah, NSW

‘A classic whodunnit! I had not read any of the Rolland Sinclair series before this one, but it didn’t seem to matter. The characters were interesting and engaging. I particularly liked Edna, a no nonsense woman. A enjoyable read, with suspense and interesting historical facts.’ – Ros, ACT

‘This is an interesting novel, one with an almost gentle approach to the crimes at the heart of the plot. Although they are vicious, there’s not a lot of gory detail, and frankly not a lot of emotion is conveyed around them. There is, however, a wealth of historical detail that adds interest and colour to the novel. The scene setting is vivid, believable, and critical to the plot. Gentill conveys this effectively through small details and excerpts from historical documents; it’s woven into the novel very effectively. The ninth book in a series, this is the first I’d read. However, the characters and their relationships were easily accessible and I had no trouble grasping them. I suspect I missed some depths to the characterisation, but even so, they were fun characters to spend some time with. I enjoyed this novel; it wasn’t overly demanding, but it was a fun and lively read. The historical setting added an extra touch of interest, and the easy and flowing writing style made it a pleasure to read. This will not suit readers looking for gritty reality, but many others will enjoy it.’ – Lorraine, ACT

‘Sulari Gentill’s All The Tears in China is reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel with a touch of flamboyance. Her vivid descriptions of Shanghai in it’s heyday, steeped in a time of political and cultural unrest, immerses the reader into a world of colourful characters with who we can all relate. Rowland Sinclair and his friends take the reader on a grand adventure has they seek the truth in a country where the truth can be bought at the right price. While this is Book 9 in the Rowland Sinclair mystery series, it is the first I have read, and I find myself wondering how I have never heard of this series before. I am now off to track down the first 8 books and devour them whole.’ – Mel, NSW

‘This is my first Sulari Gentill novel and I look forward to reading her previous books. The authors style of narrative and well researched history creates wonderful visions in the readers mind. The story begins in the genteel Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, 1935. The vivid imageries reminded me of my parent’s accounts of their youth in Sydney. Particularly the references to the new amusement park at Milson’s Point and Rowland’s stately home in Woollahra. The well-heeled Australian travels to Shanghai on behalf of his brother/company director, who has been detained with urgent family matters. Rowland travels with his chums, who help him keep face with a wool businessman. Events and drama collide from the get go helping the pages turn to see what happens next. Opium dens, opulence, corruption, rickshaws, butlers and more help capture the era. The descriptive accounts in this historical work of fiction has the reader feeling like a backseat passenger in Rowland’s rickshaw. Will they be safe? How will it all end? With characters from many cultures, there are ensuing conflicts and warm interactions, demonstrating no matter our skin colour or background, we can work together for mutual benefit.’ – Margaret, NSW

‘This was the first Rowland Sinclair Mystery I’ve read and I must say although I’ve read other reviews which said they had no trouble jumping straight into book 9, I struggled early on with the history between the characters, although the author does try to help and provide explanations to fill in the gaps. The writing and prose was a pleasant surprise and exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed the unique start of every chapter. I found this book enjoyable as a whole and would definitely look into reading the earlier books in the series.’ – Sandy, NSW

‘I really enjoyed this book. Even though it was part of a series, I didn’t feel I had come in part way through with the characters. There was a lot of detail in the book but it wasn’t hard to take it all in. There were twists and turns and moments of humour. A great holiday read.’ – Kay, QLD

‘Against the Japanese occupation of Northern China, there is talk of a trade embargo. Before this comes into place, Japanese businessman want to do a deal in China to buy Australian wool. Unable to attend to the business personally, Wilfred Sinclair sends his brother, Rowland, to Shanghai to stall for time. But within days of arrival, Rowland is accused of murdering a Russian taxi-girl who is found slaughtered in his hotel suite. In republican China, nothing is simple. Beyond the expatriate glamour of international Shanghai, Sulari Gentill gives us a picture of the nightclubs, opium dens and slums of this international city. Amongst the crime and corruption, Rowland and his friends investigate what they can to clear Rowland’s name. Gentill’s characters are distinctive, and the historical details are well drawn. The leads, hunches and narrow escapes of the intrepid heroes leave the reader in suspense. All the Tears in China is a combination of history, whodunnit and ripping yarn, told with a distinctive Australian voice.’ Karen, ACT

‘All the Tears in China revolves around an old school ritzy glitzy 1930’s murder mystery set against the seedy, dangerous backdrop of the best Shanghai has to offer. Throw in newspaper articles, facts, politics & social standings of that era & you will be escorted back in time. The richness of the characters & the historical knowledge weave a wonderful story by Gentill. This novel will take you to 1935, you will want to be a part of this friendship group & also be a part of this glamorous international lifestyle. This is the 9th book in Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair mystery series however can be read as a standalone novel. I haven’t read the other 8, however, I will now be seeking them out. Great read for fans of Agatha Christie.’ – Penne, NSW

‘I thoroughly enjoyed my ‘introduction’ to Rowland Sinclair, through Sulari Gentill’s next instalment, ‘All the Tears in China’. This style of novel is not what I usually go for, but really enjoyed delving into Rowly’s tale. From the superb attention to detail with character introductions and setting scenes to facts from a bygone era, this novel’s story line is brilliant. Although this is the 9th novel in the Rowland Sinclair mystery series, it can be read as stand alone. But be prepared to have to previous eight novels lined up ready to read… I fell in love with the charm and warmth of the friendships displayed in my mind through Sulari’s fabulous descriptions. Well done Sulari and Pantera Press. I am hooked!! And thank you Better Reading Preview!! Great read.’ – Rebecca, TAS

‘Rowland Sinclair (with friends Milt, Clyde and Edna tagging along) is sent to Shanghai to represent his brother in wool trade negotiations with the Japanese. Whilst there, a woman is found murdered in his hotel room and he becomes the main suspect. The resulting investigations take them into the thriving metropolis of multicultural Shanghai where trust is hard to find but vice is easy. And everyone is not quite what they seem. A satisfying, twisty plot with Rowly and co. in danger at every turn. As usual Sulari’s research into the place and times is exceptional. The sense of being in Shanghai in 1935, with the Japanese knocking at the front door, is terrifying. As is the creeping feeling of the growth of the Nazi way, even as far away from Germany as Shanghai. All the Tears in China is a cracker of a read. I confess to having met Rowly before. His ninth outing is just as exciting as the first eight. I would recommend Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair novels to anyone who appreciates good historical research and a thoroughly satisfying plot.’ – Daniella, QLD

‘Although this is the ninth book in the Rowland Sinclair series, it is still a good read if you haven’t read any of the previous books. After reading it, if you are a newbie to the series, you will probably want to read the other books. In her usual fashion, Sulari Gentill starts each chapter with an excerpt from a paper of the time, to set the scene and give an idea of an opinion of the time. This novel is mainly set in China in the 1930s, hence historical issues of the time like Communism, the fall of the Romanovs, Japanese aggression, Nazism and racism come into play. Although his wealth protects Rowley at times, at other times it makes him a target. With his four friends, he gets involved in a murder, a wool deal, is imprisoned and meets a lot of interesting people (some are based on real people).. The plot is well worked and the characters are enjoyable. There is enough action in this for an action story, but there is so much more… including social conscience, belief systems, racism and maintaining one’s integrity. The historical setting gives added interest, in what must have been difficult and unsettling times for those who lived it. However, there is light heartedness too, which gives the novel balance and keeps it from being dry. Wonderful Australian fiction!’ – Lyn, VIC

‘I often judge a book by its cover, so I did find the cover of All the Tears in China very different from my norm.The novel I also found a tad quirky…. Four Aussies (one a Communist) travel to China to sell wool to the Japanese! I thought the four main characters were a bit bland and wished the protagonist and his lady would get together. I have never read other books in the series of Rowland Sinclair but can understand how Sulari Gentill has many followers. It is an easy read without too much drama and is quite simplistic in its telling. The four main characters spend a lot of time in each other’s company and are all good friends. I really loved the anecdotes at the beginning of each chapter which were relevant to the story and era, eg. Tuberculosis symptoms and treatment, Stories from Shanghai, The art of eavesdropping can be instructive etc. A very satisfactory ending and I enjoyed the fact that the author tied up all the loose ends by explaining what became of the characters.’ – Maree, QLD

‘This novel was a simple murder mystery set in Shanghai, China. The characters of Rowland Sinclair and his friends Edna, Clyde and Milton were well defined, while the book’s themes of loyalty and friendship were strong. It is also a story of survival and courage as Rowland’s group must hunt for a murderer to clear his name. The setting of Shanghai was realistic, dangerous and colourful! Small snippets of newspaper reports of the time at the start of each chapter add to the historic flavour of the book. Overall it was a great addition to the series and I would recommend it as a light, exciting mystery read.’ – Kristy, NSW

‘Sulari Gentill’s All the Tears in China is another captivating addition to the Rowland Sinclair series. Set against the colourful backdrop of Shanghai, the plot is full of twists and turns that see our protagonist Rowly constantly under fire and falsely accused for a string of crimes for which he is innocent. Gentill frames the narrative with vivid setting descriptions that encapsulate the world of the artist characters within. Era-appropriate language and historical markers are cleverly interspersed throughout the storyline transport you back through time and enthral the reader into thinking they are right there alongside the colourful characters. Beautifully named and well crafted, this historical mystery is well worth the read, either as a stand-alone or as part of the series.’ – Sarah, VIC

‘An entertaining and interesting book. All The Tears in China introduced me to Rowland Sinclair Mysteries and to Sulari Gentill. Even without reading the first 8 books, it was easy to connect with the loveable characters in All The Tears in China. This historical fiction showed me how multicultural and lively Shanghai was in the 30s. It also made me wonder if all the newspaper excerpts were true and made me want to know more about Shanghai and Sydney in the 30s. Really fascinating. I’m definitely hooked and I can’t wait to start reading the other books in this series.’ – Aida, NSW

‘Australian writer Sulari Gentill presents the ninth book in her popular Rowland Sinclair series. Gentill’s fiction has won or been shortlisted for awards an enviable number of times, and a new book from her commands immediate attention and an expectation of enjoyment. That expectation is amply rewarded, as the author manoeuvres her usual cast of characters through a series of alarms and excursions in Shanghai, where Rowland has been dispatched to deputise for his brother at meetings with wool brokers. Reluctantly accepting the mission, he is as ever accompanied by his entertaining and staunch friends. The differences between the straight-laced and conventional Wilfred and the renegade Rowland highlight the range of characteristics found within families and divergent political views in 1930’s Australia. Much entertainment comes from the activities of the band of friends who manage to get themselves into (and out of) scrapes, largely financed by Rowland’s family money. The beautiful and independent sculptress Edna, the poetry-quoting Milton and the artist Clyde for a powerful team with Rowland, as they encounter a Shanghai that delivers high society, vice, spies, murder, stretches in prison for Rowly and mysteries galore. As always in the series, the fun is accompanied by painless absorption of the history of the ever-fascinating 1930s. Bring on the next in the series!’ – Margaret, NSW

‘The 9th book of the Rowland Sinclair series by Sulari Gentill, “All the Tears in China” takes up back to the genteel life of the aristocracy in 1930s Australia, drawing us in so we feel we are invisibly there watching on. Rowland and his cohorts embark on a trip from Sydney to China, purportedly for Rowland to represent his family’s wool business negotiations, and we are treated to a plethora of adventures which grow from seemingly simple encounters and continue each to take on a life of their own. In reading of their adventures, Gentill makes us feel we are participating in these sometimes crazy adventures, and we find we can’t wait to turn the page to see where it leads us next. My only criticism is that I feel there are things that may be better understood regarding character development by reading some of the earlier books prior to reading this one, but all in all, this is a fabulous read, iconically Australian, and I can’t wait to go back and read the rest of the series in order.’ – Jane, NSW

‘Rowland Sinclair, a wealthy gentleman and artist, along with 3 friends, goes to Shanghai China at the request of Rowland’s brother. Murder and mystery abound. The chapters begin with articles about China’s history and the ways of the the Chinese people. These articles give the reader an insight into the history of China. Very informative.’ – Vivien, ACT

‘Rowland Sinclair, an artist, who despite knowing nothing about his family’s lucrative wool business, is sent to Shanghai to represent the business. He is under instruction from his brother to commit to nothing! After a young woman of dubious background is found murdered in his luxurious hotel suite, Rowland is under suspicion of murder and that is just the beginning of his woes. Rowland, along with his three arty friends who accompanied him on this trip, try to solve this mystery. This story is set in Shanghai in the 1930s amidst a very corrupt and dangerous society. The short newspaper clippings which preface each chapter draw the reader into the life and culture of the times. The story is well paced, with quirky characters and is well written, and although it is part of a series, it is the only one I have read and it works perfectly well as a stand-alone. I enjoyed it and will be recommending it to others, especially to lovers of historical mysteries.Thank you to Better Reading for providing my copy for review purposes.’ – Cathie, QLD
‘All the Tears in China is the ninth book in the Rowland Sinclair mystery series. This is my first time reading a book in this series and can be read as a standalone novel. I have enjoyed it so much that I will go back and read the whole series. The book is full of fun, humorous, action packed adventure with Rowland Sinclair and his friends caught up in a mysterious murder of a young Russian widow. I enjoyed the excerpts from newspaper articles’ which gave a sense of what is to come and providing historical context and atmosphere to the time period which the book is set. It is a good book well worth the enjoyable read!’ – Brenda, NSW
‘Thanks to Better Reading I recently had the opportunity to read All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill. Though the latest of the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, it reads well as a stand alone novel. The story’s fascinating, and the newspaper articles etc of the time very informative… Shanghai in 1935 really draws you in, and the references to Sydney landmarks (albeit in a much earlier time) are really enjoyable… I loved this book, and wish I’d discovered Rowly and friends earlier! The writing’s engaging and leaves you wanting to know more about Rowly and his artistic friends (especially the progressive Edna). All the intrigues and goings on in Shanghai during a (supposed) business trip by Rowland Sinclair make for a book you can’t put down, and have to keep reading till you find out how things resolve… I’m fascinated by the past, so this was right up my alley! All the little details of the time help to set the scene and just add to the overall charm, such as the band playing a Lindy Hop in the dance hall… The charming Rowly and friends have absolutely charmed me; can’t wait to return to their wonderful world…’ – Ayesha, NSW
‘Sulari Gentill’s latest Rowland Sinclair adventure mystery takes the intrepid Australian to the Far East to the exotic city of Shanghai. This glittering city has become the international playground destination for the rich and beautiful – a shining oriental star with a decidedly seedy underbelly. In a city where corruption, gangs and the sickly-sweet whiff of opium lingers on every street corner, Gentill’s writing takes us through as many plot twists and turns as old Shanghai’s narrow laneways. The brooding global politics of the mid 1930s add further intrigue as Rowly and his friends find themselves embroiled in the vicious murder of a mysterious young woman. The novel commences at a gentle pace and then develops momentum finally accelerating to a thrilling climax. Sulari Gentill’s clever use of historic newspapers to lead into each new chapter gives context and insight to the unfolding story. Plenty of red herrings along the way keep the reader guessing in this satisfying Agatha Christie style whodunnit.’ – Christine, QLD
‘Despite being the 9th book in a series that I haven’t read, I enjoyed this book immensely: though I do believe that I would have got more out of it if I’d read the prequels. It’s definitely difficult to begin with, but eventually the story drags you in and develops into the precise and captivating story line. The setting of the novel is described in perfect detail so that you can almost close your eyes and feel as though you are there experiencing everything along side the characters. At some points the story does feel dragged out and tedious but overall it was a quite enjoyable read.’ – Abbie, VIC
‘This is not a genre that I normally read but this book has changed my mind. It was so nice to spend some time in 1935 with some wonderful characters and a great storyline. I felt like I was watching an old black and white movie. I will definitely be reading the previous books in this series although you didn’t need to have read them to read this one.’ – Michelle, VIC
‘I have just finished All The Tears in China, thank you Better Reading! This so isn’t my normal genre at all. I am so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. From the cover alone I thought it would be in the same vein as Agatha Christie and Kerry Greenwood. It certainly felt like a cousin to these great classics. The newspaper articles at the start of the chapters set the scene perfectly. The characters are quirky and so well formed, ‘the artist’ ‘the sculptress’ and ‘the poet’. This is the ninth book in the Rowland Sinclair series but I could follow it very easily. For me the description was fantastic ‘the contrast of moon gates against geometric fretwork…’ it was just such a visual story. All the Tears is concerned with justice, creativity, friendship and corruption. There is also a really subtle under tow of history repeating itself and not thinking critically. Rowly rightly despises the nazis but hasn’t thought about Aboriginal Australians…It is a fantastic book and the first thing I am doing after submitting this review is getting my hands on number one!’ – Anna, NSW
‘This cleverly written novel is unmistakably Australian. The book is set in 1935 Shanghai – a vibrant, dangerous and intriguing city. Rowland and his colleagues lead us on an adventure filled with passion, drama and mystery. I found the writing to be descriptive and witty. I enjoyed the small nods to various historical events throughout the story. The plot was well-paced with expertly executed, often fantastical, twists and turns. I particularly enjoyed the colourful characters, who are the heart and soul of this book (in my humble opinion). Each character has a distinct personality. They are quirky, determined and compassionate. Though part of a series, I enjoyed this book as a stand alone novel. References to previous novels were well explained without being tedious. The article excerpts at the start of each chapter are an interesting way to give context to the story and foreshadow upcoming events too. I enjoyed this novel. It was an interesting, enjoyable and transportive read.’ – Laura, SA
‘What a joy to read! I went into All The Tears in China with an open mind, I don’t often read murder mysteries and crime and this was my first foray into the Rowland Sinclair series and now I am hooked and look forward to reading the back issues. I thoroughly enjoyed All The Tears in China and thought it was just as enjoyable as an intriguing stand-alone book with Sulari Gentill’s wonderful writing style, the wide range of well developed, interesting and complex characters set in a fascinating and dynamic historical period. Sulari Gentill’s rich, witty and vibrant prose with a touch of whimsy allows the reader to immerse themselves in the well-researched historical setting capturing the hustle and bustle and the glitz and glamour of Shanghai in 1935 with all the political and social machinations of Shanghai and elsewhere. Excerpts from newspapers and magazines introduce each chapter, wonderfully setting the scene of the social and political climate and revealing the backgrounds and inclinations of the novel’s cast of characters. As the likeable protagonist Rowland “Rowly” Sinclair and his band of friends work to clear his name of murder while navigating business deals they come across Japanese traders, Communists, Nazis, Bolsheviks, refugee White Russians, German Jews, a drug king-pin and an international spy amongst many other colourful characters. There is something for everyone in All The Tears in China – history, intrigue, murder, humour, politics, friendship and hints of romance. I found it easy to connect with the main characters and I loved the history that Sulari Gentill was able to successfully weave into the narrative motivating me to research outside of the book to learn more. I look forward to reading more of the Rowland Sinclair series and am eager to read more historical mysteries after finding a newfound appreciation thanks to Sulari Gentill. Thank you Better Reading and Pantera Press for the opportunity to read an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.’ Maridel, NSW
‘Set in the Shanghai of the 1930s, All The Tears in China, the ninth instalment in Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, follows Rowland Sinclair and the dramas that inevitably befall him and his erstwhile friends. One of the things I love about Gentill’s writing across the whole series is the attention to detail that is the result of extensive research. As usual, Rowly has fallen into a situation that’s difficult to explain away. Enemies are around every corner, and it’s up to Rowly and his friends to get to the bottom of it. A twisty turny mystery, full of suspense and well worth the read.’ – Amy, QLD
‘Makes me wish I had read the others in the series. An original story in a era that was unknown to me. Classic Australian story telling of the time. I was impressed by an author unknown to me. Highly recommend if you enjoy genuine Aussie crime fiction set in the 1930s.’ – Penny, NSW
‘Brilliant book. Wonderful Aussie era to read about, gentle dialogue, well rounded characters, plot twists you will not see coming. You can feel the tension woven gently through the story. Wonderful humour, makes you wish you were part of their family.’ – Rodney, NSW
‘All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill is definitely an enjoyable read, being both historical fiction, a murder mystery and a crime novel, set in Shanghai in 1935. I’m not normally a reader of this genre, and it was actually the title and the cover that drew me in. This title is the ninth book in the Rowland Sinclair series. Although it is part of a series it can be read as a standalone novel and is very easy to get into. I loved Gentill’s writing style, as well as the way she develops her characters. Her research and knowledge of the time is very impressive and makes the story all the more interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would definitely recommend it to others. I’m also looking forward to reading the previous books in the series.’ – Mary, VIC
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