A Dashing Artist Playing Detective to Solve His Uncle’s Brutal Murder – the 1930s Were to Die For! A Rowland Sinclair Mystery Short-listed for Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book Sulari Gentill – Winner of Davitt Award for Best Adult Crime Fiction 2012 In 1930s Australia, the Sinclair name is respectable and influential, yet the youngest son Rowland – an artist – has a talent for scandal. Even with the unemployed lining the streets, Rowland lives in a sheltered world… of wealth, culture and impeccable tailoring with the family fortune indulging his artistic passions and friends… a poet, a painter and a brazen sculptress. Mounting political tensions fuelled by the Great Depression take Australia to the brink of revolution. While Rowland is an uncommon man, his name is not. He shares it with an uncle, an aging playboy. When the elder man is murdered, Rowland is stricken with grief and plagued by question. Foremost: why would anyone want to kill the old man? The stakes are high, as Rowland and his friends go undercover in the New Guard, a dangerous political group intent on wrestling control of the country from its current leadership. As danger looms and Rowland and his friends become targets of the fascist legion, will they be able to solve the mystery of his uncle’s murder? Will they be able to protect the country from political upheaval? Gentill skilfully weaves her narratives around real historical events and figures with razor-sharp humour and incredible imagination. Her debut novel delights the reader and excites them with richly drawn characters and impeccable timing.
Gentill's well-mannered first novel in a series set in Depression-era Australia introduces gentleman painter Rowland "Rowly" Sinclair, the somewhat emotionally reserved youngest son of a moneyed family. Rowly's pursuit of his artistic path and financial support of several similar-minded creative friends are causes of concern to his older brother and their peers, "right-thinking men" who suspect Rowly's associates of Communist leanings or worse. When Rowly's uncle, also named Roland Sinclair, dies after being assaulted in his Sydney home, the police suspect the elderly housekeeper, in collusion with other disenfranchised elements, despite the housekeeper's reported sighting of mysterious dark figures at the scene. Convinced the police are pursuing the wrong path, Rowly looks deeper into his uncle's holdings and interests. Gentill's positioning of Rowly as an observer of the personal consequences of political actions targeting the privileged and the not so fortunate helps inform the sometimes dry narrative.