A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill (Rowland Sinclair #8)

Flat Cover_Gentill_ADL_2017Title: A Dangerous Language

Author: Sulari Gentill

Genre: Crime Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Set against the glamorous backdrop of the 1930s in Australia and overseas, A Dangerous Language is the latest in the much loved, award winning Rowland Sinclair Mysteries.

When Rowland Sinclair volunteers his services as a pilot to fly the renowned international peace advocate, Egon Kisch, between Fremantle and Melbourne, he is unaware of how hard Australia’s new Attorney-General will fight to keep the “raging reporter” off Australian soil. In this, it seems, the government is not alone, as clandestine right-wing militias reconstitute into deadly strike forces.

When a Communist agent is murdered on the steps of Parliament House, Rowland Sinclair finds himself drawn into a dangerous world of politics and assassination.

A disgraced minister, an unidentified corpse and an old flame all bring their own special bedlam. Once again Rowland Sinclair stands against the unthinkable, with an artist, a poet and a brazen sculptress by his side.

~*~

A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill marks book number thirty eight in my Australian Women Writer’s challenge for 2017, and as usual, has not failed to impress and of course, distress at times. Now in 1934, inching closer to the threat of war, Rowland is in Melbourne, purchasing a new car to replace his beloved Mercedes, that met with destruction in the almost fatal car race of the previous book, Give The Devil His Due. The trip back from Melbourne with Clyde Watson Jones and Milton Isaacs, an artist and poet whose political allegiances, especially on Milt’s account, have put Rowland in his brother’s firing line of anguish, should be uneventful. However, their sojourn through Canberra, where they are to meet Edna, Milt stumbles across the body of a Communist on the steps of Parliament House – an event that beings the tumultuous venture to get Egon Kisch into Australia, and speaking out against the Fascist tendencies that Rowland and his friends witnessed in Germany in Paving the New Road. When Rowland’s brother, Wilfred, comes onto the scene, Rowly must do whatever he can to keep his plans to help Egon away from his conservative brother – who nonetheless knows that the Fascists are dangerous. Even so, the big brother is also keen to pry his mostly apolitical brother away from the influence of those Rowland chooses to keep company with.

aww2017-badgeIn this eighth venture, politics begins to have a larger focus than in the previous seven novels, where it was present, but had less impact on the plot. In this novel, it seems nobody is safe from the clashes between each side – this is what makes the novel gripping, as it ensures that those who hurt Milt and Rowly (poor Rowland was in the wars a bit in this one again) are shrouded in mystery. As always, I enjoy the Rowland Sinclair novels, and this one was two years in the waiting, and rightly so in the end, because it captured the political turbulence and environment of the 1930s in a way that is accessible to those just discovering it, and highlighting some aspects and characters that are perhaps less well-known than others during this time.

Fiction often offers parallels to history or contemporary times, and it is not hard to see BW_Author_Photo_Gentill_2016how the dangerous language that Rowland and his friends opposed in 1934 from Fascists and the conservatives of the time is repeating itself today. The feelings of powerlessness that the ordinary people had against those in politics and with influence that can encourage this dangerous language Rowland dislikes are felt through Milt and Clyde throughout the novel, and in particular Clyde during a boat cruise from Fremantle to Melbourne, where they must ensure Egon gets to Melbourne safely, and in Traveller’s Class, Rowland is able to get Egon as far as possible on his trip. The social class contrast between Rowland and his friends appears even more so in this book, where class and politics have become crucial to the evolution of the plot and characters at the stage of the series. The history of this turbulent period is woven into the plot and is sometimes the motive behind the crime, such as in A Dangerous Language. I also enjoy the inclusion of historical figures and people throughout that had an impact on history – this gives the stories an authenticity to them that is both exciting and informative at the same time.

As always, Rowland takes a few hits from people trying to cover up their crime, or another secret, and his brother Wilfred, battle-weary by now from saving the family name, is still faithful to Rowland, if a bit pompous at times. I do feel for Rowly when Wilfred loses his temper, as so often happens when Rowland stumbles into something he didn’t intend to. As polar opposites, Sulari has created exceptional characters in the Sinclair family, and their friends, including the heartbreak that Rowland’s own mother doesn’t recognise him, but sees him as his long-dead brother, Aubrey, an ongoing theme throughout the series that Rowland takes in his stride, and that Sulari has written exceptionally well. The Rowland Sinclair series is one that gets better with each subsequent mystery, and the uniquely Australian settings are in themselves a character – from Woodlands estate in Sydney, to the family property at Yass, and each place Rowland and his friends visit. They are often the unwilling detectives at first, dedicated to their art and friendship, but also dedicated to speaking out when and where they need to, to ensure that the dangerous language that Egon Kisch is trying to warn against does not infect the way of life that many in Australia enjoy. Once they are involved in the crime, it seems they cannot help themselves, and Rowland, as an honourable person, is always at hand to warn Colin Delaney of new information they stumble across.

An excellent addition to this series, and I look forward to the next one, which will hopefully be out soon!

Buy the new Rowland Sinclair and the rest of the books in the series here:

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The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs

 

Title: The Joyce Girl

Author: Annabel Abbsjoyce-girl

Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 30th August, 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: James Joyce was her father. Samuel Beckett was her lover. The stunning fictionalisation of the life of Lucia Joyce.

Paris, 1928. Avant-garde Paris is buzzing with the latest ideas in art, music and literature from artists such as Ford Maddox Ford and Zelda Fitzgerald. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of controversial genius James Joyce, is making her name as a dancer. But when Lucia falls passionately in love with budding writer (and fellow Irish expat) Samuel Beckett he is banned from the Joyce family home.

1934. Her life in tatters, Lucia is sent to pioneering psychoanalyst Carl Jung. For years she has kept quiet. Now she decides to speak.

Profoundly moving and stunningly written, The Joyce Girl brings to light the untold tale of Lucia Joyce. It will entrance and educate you. You will fall in love with this compelling woman, but she will break your heart too.

 

~*~

The reader first meets Lucia Joyce in 1934, speaking with Dr Carl Jung, psychoanalyst, in Zurich. For years, she has been silent, kept secrets to herself. The story unfolds and flashes back to 1928 and beyond as Lucia recounts her story to Jung, though a bit reluctantly at first. As the story is told in first person from Lucia’s point of view, the reader understands the world she lives in from her perspective, sees the way her friends, family and acquaintances treat her from her perspective. Lucia is a dancer, determined to turn it into a career. Though she is constantly thwarted by her mother, and said to be her father’s muse, Lucia is determined. Determined to dance, determined to be loved. When her father’s new writing friend, Samuel Beckett, arrives to help her father – James Joyce, or Babbo, as she calls him – Lucia begins to fall in love.

As the story unfolds, Lucia’s dreams of love, and dancing continue to be thwarted and her parents demands that she cease dancing and take up another profession and other classes to help her father start to wear her down. From Paris to Ireland and back, the constant comings and goings of her father’s Flatterer’s, and her family’s determination to keep her down, Lucia’s story is heart breaking. Jung’s determination to get to the bottom of what is causing her pain at times sends Lucia further into herself, denying her feelings.

The clairvoyance that she exhibits, called her Cassandra moments by her father, only contribute to the events that bring her into contact by 1934 with Carl Jung.

Though much of the novel covers the years between 1928 and 1932, every so often it flashes to 1934 and Lucia’s time with Jung in Zurich, who is determined to find a way to help her, even if it means sending the person who has never given up on her away. Jung’s determination to get to the crux of Lucia’s hidden problems eventually comes to fruition, and the revelation and the fall out is as shocking as how she came to be put into the hands of Jung for treatment.

Avant-garde Paris, where art, literature and music in the late 1920s and early to mid 1930s reigned, at least in Abbs’ novel, set the backdrop for a well-written novel from a point of view that might not always be heard. The voice of family of well-known writers, or artists, such as Lucia’s, is not one that I have ever heard, nor is it a common one. Having read Ulysses by James Joyce, it gave insight into the sort of man he might have been – a man so obsessed with writing the perfect novel that he almost neglects his family to the point of his children finding ways to rebel against him, and leaving his wife to deal with this fallout. Lucia’s story is also about doing what you can to follow your dreams against the odds, and trying to break free even when everything works against you and thwarts your every attempt at freedom. The world where art was valued that preceded the devastation of the late 1930s and the 1940s highlights the differences in whose art was valued, and what art was valued in certain people. The Zurich conclusion brings it back home that even the most creative people have their own hidden secrets and problems. Lucia’s story is well rounded, and well thought out with characters that have been created thoughtfully from source material. Well worth the read for anyone, whether they are familiar with Joyce’s work or not.

Give the Devil His Due by Sulari Gentill.

rowly-7Title: Give The Devil His Due (Rowland Sinclair #7)
Author: Sulari Gentill
Publisher: Pantera Press
Category: Historical Fiction/Crime
Pages: 384
Available formats: Print and ebook
Publication Date: 1/11/15
RRP: AU$29.99
Synopsis: The 7th book in the award-winning Australian historical crime fiction Rowland Sinclair Mystery Series
When Rowland Sinclair is invited to take his yellow Mercedes onto the Maroubra Speedway, renamed the Killer Track for the lives it has claimed, he agrees without caution or reserve.

But then people start to die.

The body of a journalist covering the race is found in a House of Horrors, an English blueblood with Blackshirt affiliations is killed on the race track. and it seems that someone has Rowland in their sights.

A strange young reporter preoccupied with black magic, a mysterious vagabond, an up-and-coming actor by the name of Flynn, and ruthless bookmakers all add mayhem to the mix.

With danger presenting at every turn, and the brakes long since disengaged, Rowland Sinclair hurtles towards disaster with an artist, a poet and brazen sculptress along for the ride.

~*~

Our latest adventure with Rowland picks up soon after the events of A Murder Unmentioned, which unravelled the mystery of the death of Henry Sinclair, Rowly’s father. Give The Devil His Due has Rowly preparing for the charity race at the Killer Track, the Maroubra Speedway. At the same time, he is still haunted by what he saw and went through in Germany, in Paving the New Road. The journey to the race and eventual exhibition of his paintings of Nazi Germany is fraught with disaster. First, Rowly must deal with Crispin White, a journalist determined to make more of Rowly’s association with Milt, the Communist, his father’s death, and his time in Germany, rather than report on the race.
Once White’s body is found at Magdalene’s House of the Macabre, Rowly and his friends are plunged into a world of black magic, where they encounter Rosaleen Norton, the future Witch of King’s Cross, whose stories about the macabre are far more interesting to her than her take over of the article on Rowly and his racing team, which includes Errol Flynn. With each step, Rowly and his crew find themselves in more danger, leading up to a disastrous event that had my heart racing as I read it.
One of my favourite things about this and the other Rowland Sinclair books, is the way Sulari weaves history and historical figures through the narrative, and their interaction with Rowland. Just like the other books, Give The Devil His Due does not fail to deliver on mystery, history and laughs. Yet it is the change in Rowland since book four that has had a significant impact on the narrative – his feelings of helplessness at not being able to stop what happened in Germany, and at not being able to make people see what is going on there are powerful. The continuation of them in book seven hint at what is to come, and hint at what we, as the readers, know happens in the lead up to World War Two, and the realisation of the truth.
When one of Rowly’s teammates for the race is killed in a freak accident during a training session, threats come thick and fast to Rowly from the victim’s sister, and the discovery of the word “Eternity” written throughout Sydney, and an encounter with Arthur Stace, lead to a kidnapping, and the series of events that unravels the true killer, it is Rowly and his friends, together with Detective Delaney, who unmask them.
Give the Devil His Due was a thoroughly enjoyable installment of the Rowland Sinclair series, and one that had me on edge at certain moments, just as any good Rowly story does.

Gentlemen Formerly Dressed by Sulari Gentill

rowly-5

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 1st, 2013

Book Synopsis: After narrowly escaping Nazi terror, Rowland Sinclair and his companions land in London, believing they are safe.

But they are wrong.

A bizarre murder plunges the hapless Australians into a queer world of British aristocracy, Fascist Blackshirts, illicit love, scandal and spies.

A world where gentlemen are not always what they are dressed up to be.

~*~

I was delighted to be able to leap headfirst into another adventure with Rowland. Edna, Clyde and Milt in London, along with his brother, Wilfred, sister-in-law, Kate and nephews, Ewan and Ernest. Staying at Claridge’s after escaping Fascist Germany, Rowly and his friends are soon privy to the murder of a fellow guest, Lord Pierrepont is murdered, and found in stockings and a women’s nightie – in rather scandalous circumstances that lead to people related to him and the police trying to cover things up. Sulari does a fabulous job of revealing clues to the reader just as the characters find them. The journey to Madame Tussaud’s in London is seemingly innocent enough – Rowly and his friends are in the company of his nephew, Ernest. But the discovery here of a wax head of Pierrepont, and the sculptor hoisting it off onto them to deliver it to Euphemia Thistlethwaite leads the reader into a series of humour-filled interactions with the head in a hat box, and then resting on a desk in the suite Rowland and his friends are staying in.

My favourite line in relation to the head came towards the end of the novel, after a second failed attempt to return it to Lord Harcourt and the family: “Rowland nodded. He had been preoccupied and now he’d lost Pierrepont’s head.” It had the feeling or something morbid yet as the head was wax, quite amusing. The aftermath of Rowly losing the head is equally enjoyable to read and experience, in particular, Wilfred’s reaction to the whole situation of why they had a wax head of a dead man in their rooms.

Though Wilfred throughout the novels is disapproving of Rowly’s friends and maybe a little hard on him, he does not just let anyone get away with trying to harm his family. I found this coming through much more since Paving the New Road, following Rowly’s encounters with the Nazi Stormtroopers. The continuity and growth that readers get to experience with this relationship makes the novels well worth the read.

Sulari has again seamlessly and delightfully incorporated real-world figures such as Winston Churchill, H.G. Wells and Stanley Melbourne Bruce into the narrative, as figures for Rowland and his comrades to interact with. For me as a reader, this brings even more authenticity to the world she is creating and meandering in. I hope we get to see more of their reactions to what is going on in Germany and the outcomes of this.

The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries are one of my favourite crime series, because they also incorporate real world history and figures. It feels genuine because of these characteristics, and I am looking forward to seeing what is in store for Rowly in the future.