If you are a nostalgic fan of everything from Agatha Christie to Sherlock Holmes, then the award-winning Rowland Sinclair Mysteries series is a reading delight not to be missed.
In the eighth book in this great series, A Dangerous Language, the always charming and quick-witted Rowland is plunged into another mystery when a Communist agent is found murdered on Parliament House steps. Next, a disgraced Minister and an unidentified corpse add to Rowland’s already chaotic life.
Readers first met Rowland Sinclair in Sulari Gentill’s debut novel A Few Right Thinking Men, a stylised historical murder mystery set in Australia during the 1930s. Although it is the Great Depression and the country is afflicted by joblessness, hunger, and growing privation, Rowland, an artist from the upper echelons of society, appears to be largely indifferent to the suffering. Despite his seeming callousness, it’s hard to dislike the man. During an evening he spends with his elderly uncle, we learn about his inheritance and enjoy the full expansiveness of his charm and thoughtfulness. One of the most entertaining aspects of this novel is the author’s sharp wit which shines through the dialogue. Gentill, we imagine, would be great value at a dinner party.
The two engines driving the story are Rowland’s rejection of his wealthy upbringing to pursue the artistic life, although ironically, this involves being supported financially by the very inheritance he seeks to deny.
Following a pleasant evening with his uncle, all seems well until a brutal murder exposes an extraordinary and treasonous conspiracy that shatters the sanctuary of his wealth. His uncle is found murdered in mysterious circumstances, and when the police display indifference towards Rowland’s misfortune, he vows to find the killer himself.
So begins the transformation of Rowland Sinclair from isolated aristocrat to witty detective who soon discovers that all gentlemen aren’t what they are dressed up to be.
A Few Right Thinking Men marked the beginning of a series of masterfully plotted page-turners with writing that sparkles off the page. The period setting is terrifically well drawn, with political tensions and historical calamities such as the fear of Communism and the rise of Nazism. Gentill’s partly ironic, tongue-in-cheek way of writing about ‘gentlemen’ and ‘nobility’ is done with grace, distinction and authenticity. Her writing style is exhilarating, her imagination boundless. Throughout the series, Rowland has to contend with Nazis, Fascist Black-shirts, the British aristocracy, a long-hidden family secret, a House of Horror, the disappearance of friends, and a country so alarmed by the state of the world that it’s dangerously close to paranoia and madness.
If you’ve not encountered the Rowland Sinclair mysteries, then you have a backlog of entertaining and intriguing mysteries to devour. Like most detective stories they can be read as standalone books, although we imagine you won’t be able to stop at just one.
The brilliant Rowland Sinclair series has received wide recognition. The first in the series, A Few Right Thinking Men, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. A Decline in Prophets, the second in the series, won the Davitt Award for Best Adult Crime Fiction. Paving the New Road, released in 2012, was shortlisted for the Davitt Award for Best Crime Fiction 2013, and the sixth book in the series, A Murder Unmentioned was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award 2015. You get the picture: they’re damn good books.
Award-winning author Sulari Gentill set out to study astrophysics, ended up graduating in law, and later abandoned her legal studies to write books instead of contracts. Sulari is the author of the award-winning Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, a series of historical crime novels set in the 1930s about Rowland Sinclair, the gentlemen artist-cum-amateur detective.