Fiona Hardy - Reading Kills

There is something so completely delicious about Rowland Sinclair and his louche band of comrades, the rapscallion Australian heroes of Sulari Gentill’s 1930s-set series. I could eat them all up with a silver spoon: flamboyant poet Milton Isaacs, loyal landscape painter Clyde Watson Jones, frequently nude sculptress Edna Higgins, and Rowland Sinclair himself, rich, connected, tough, determined, and honourable in a political sense, if not always within the confines of early twentieth century upper-class society. They are as merry to join as your most entertaining group of friends, though (I assume) get imprisoned and accused of murder at a higher rate.

In this, Rowland’s sixth mystery, a secretive family subject is brought to light after the gun used in his father’s death some thirteen years earlier was found in a drained dam at the family’s country homestead in Yass. His friends had all been led to believe that the late Henry Sinclair had died in a much more respectable and quiet way, and Rowland’s own family has been disinclined to discuss the issue until now, when it seems apparent that the finger of blame is now pointing squarely at our hero himself. So Rowland and all his friends avail themselves of now-classic cars and now-frightening airplanes to arrive in New South Wales’ Southern Tablelands, clear Rowly’s name, and do their darnedest to offend everyone’s sensibilities, make Rowly’s stuffed-shirt brother Wilfred shout about respectability and save the day.

With cameo appearances from historical figures even I recognised—Bob Menzies in the Sinclair kitchen, Edna Walling in the garden, and Kate Leigh grinning lasciviously at Rowly in a jailhouse crowd—and a real sense of fun to the book alongside some quite genuine tension, this is historical crime for those in the know and those—like me—who can barely remember what happened last weekend, let alone what the proper etiquette and outfit would be for a spot of post-murder supper. My one criticism would be that there is an inappropriately randy character with the exact same name as my father (who admittedly would have been four years old at the time), but as long as you are not me or my sisters, you could probably overlook that rather alarming moment without thinking anxiously about calling your father with a stern tone.


A Murder Unmentioned is a November release. And you should buy it.

Karen Chisolm - AustCrime

Sulari Gentill has never pulled her punches when it comes to putting Rowly Sinclair in a spot of peril, and it turns out that she's even prepared to do that retrospectively. In the process she makes the idea of being a scion of this particular landed gentry family a rather sobering prospect. In the first book Sinclair's uncle (he of the same name) was murdered, and now, in A MURDER UNMENTIONED, it turns out that Sinclair's father had suffered the same fate.

A family secret long kept is not just that Sinclair senior was murdered, the possible involvement of the teenage Rowly and his older brother's intervention has been under the radar as well.

In all of these books, Rowland Sinclair has been a reluctant hero. With hindsight, his reluctance to also follow the family script makes perfect sense now, so much so that you have to wonder if Gentill's been planning this personal arc all along.

A MURDER UNMENTIONED follows the discovery of a gun, that triggers a reinvestigation, that ultimately casts light into some dark corners of the Sinclair family. It's not just Rowly's reluctance that starts to make sense. Wilfred's protectiveness, and their mother's mental decline also clearly have some basis in past events. These revelations come to light for the reader, as they do for Rowly's band of supporters – they of the “leap in and defend, help, protect regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of the threat”.

Part of the outcome of all of these revelations is a strengthening of relationships. The friendship between Rowly, Edna, Milton and Clyde; the affection and regard between brothers Wilfred and Rowly (which has always been there despite the rather stiff and stilted manner of expression). Finally there is acceptance of their mother's situation and a sharing of the load. There's also some fracturing of relationships, as desired romances aren't, and others turn out to be utterly disastrous.

Told, as always, with a light hand, great sympathy and a sense of humour, A MURDER UNMENTIONED sits in its timeframe as snug as a hand in a finely crafted suede glove. Somehow Gentill is able to take the reader into the timeframe in which the books are set, and in this case, back into the past further, and make you feel like it was written then. The joy of new flight, the fascination of elaborate sports cars, the isolation of the squatter lifestyle combined with the frisson of recognition that comes with real characters being incorporated seamlessly into the fictional all contribute to the enjoyment.

What holds the reader to this series is that sense of an entire world, and the bringing to life of history, combined with strong plots, and wonderful characters that you're given full permission to like. The humour is perfect, the situations believable, and the clues to solving the mystery are there for anyone who wants to play along. The only warning is that you probably shouldn't start with this novel – you need to meet Rowly long before you find out about the past. You'll see so much more in this book if you do, and besides there is so much wonderful reading in the entire series.