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.

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A Murder Unmentioned by Sulari Gentill

rowly-6Book Title: A Murder Unmentioned (Rowland Sinclair, #6)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 1st, 2014

Book Synopsis: The black sheep of a wealthy grazier dynasty, gentleman artist Rowland Sinclair often takes matters into his own hands. When the matter is murder, there are consequences.

For nearly fourteen years, Rowland has tried to forget, but now the past has returned.

A newly-discovered gun casts light on a family secret long kept… a murder the Sinclairs would prefer stayed unsolved.

As old wounds tear open, the dogged loyalty of Rowland’s inappropriate companions is all that stands between him and the consequences of a brutal murder… one he simply failed to mention.

~*~

Once again, Rowland Sinclair did not fail to hold my attention, all other books being set aside as the mystery of who killed Henry Sinclair, Rowland’s father, when our hero was just a teenager. The mystery arises when Edna Walling, a gardener engaged by Wilfred’s wife Kate, to landscape the surrounds of Oaklea. The gun used in the murder of Henry Sinclair is discovered, prompting a cousin, Arthur Sinclair, and a former employee, Charlie Hayden, to come out to Yass to influence the investigation in their favour.

Lucy Bennett is involved again, adamant that she will marry Rowland, even though her father has determined he is inappropriate for her. I find Lucy’s stubborn determination that Rowland has indeed professed his adoration and love for her, and extending from that, that he has somehow proposed to her in his many attempts to gently discourage her throughout the series both funny and, in terms of her character, annoying. Lucy’s involvement in this book, however, is more significant. Having failed at nabbing Rowly, she fixes her sights on Arthur Sinclair, and the plot thickens. Soon, another murder has the police set their sights on Rowland, and the family becomes embroiled in danger and mystery to unravel what really happened on the night Rowland and Wilfred’s father died.

Always by his side, Rowly’s companions, Edna, Milt and Clyde are ready to help discover the truth. Their loyalty is recognised by Wilfred in this book, and there is a major turning point in the relationship between the brothers. We finally find out what happened to Rowland in his father’s study and library as a child. We see a gentler side to Wilfred as he does everything he can to help his brother but also his brother’s friends. I found myself liking Wilfred very much in the final pages, and his defence of his brother and family.

Sulari Gentill has captured the essence of the period in all six books, set against the backdrop of the Depression, and now, the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, to which Rowly and his friends were witness to in Paving the New Road. The line up of likely suspects in this book works very effectively when the true killer is revealed, and the mystery, somewhat, at least amongst brothers and friends, solved. This added layer of intrigue and where people were and who they were with at the time of the murder just adds yet another aspect to the book that kept me reading.

I cannot say which Rowland Sinclair book thus far is my favourite – they are all wonderful and I am sad that I now have to wait until later this year for book seven. Though they are quick reads, they are enjoyable and they do take me away from other reading – that I can finish whilst waiting for my next sojourn with Rowly.

Five Years of Rowland Sinclair

rowly-1Five years ago, on the first of June, Rowland Sinclair and his artist compatriots were released from the grey cells and imagination of Sulari Gentill into the literary world, with the help of the fantastic team at Pantera Press. A 1930s gentleman of means, living in a family estate in Woollahra, with his friends Elias Isaacs, known as Milt, a Communist and a Jew and a poet, Clyde Watson Jones, a country boy and painter, and Edna Higgins, the sculptress. My personal journey began with book two, and going back to read them in order has brought a new light to the series. At the time of writing this post, I am up to book five, Gentlemen Formally Dressed, taking place fairly soon after Paving the New Road, and continuing with the themes that have been trickling throughout the books, moving through political dissent in Australia towards that in Germany and what is to come.

The reader has an upper hand though, in knowing the history of the period, if they do, or at least knowing the major events that follow in the decades after The First World War that our fine Rowly finds himself caught up in, often by accidental association or by being in the wrong place, at the wrong, or perhaps sometimes, the right time. Rowland’s journeys are plagued by murder and intrigue, false accusations and colourful characters – both fictional and historical, who bring a colour to the stories and situate them firmly in the
rowly-21930s and the turmoil of the period.

Rowland is introduced in A Few Right Thinking Men, set against the backdrop of the conflict of the Old Guard and the New Guard, leading to Francis De Groot stealing the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from Premier Lang. Culminating in Rowly and his friends needing to escape, they take a tour of the Continent, their return journey recounted in A Decline in Prophets, where several bodies drop to cover up the crimes of a church leader. Book Three, Miles Off Course, has the backdrop of Old and New Guard, rowly-3Communism and the Depression against Rowland’s brother insisting he search their sheep farming property for the head station hand, leading to a conspiracy of sheep theft. It is with Paving the New Road that the series heads to Nazi Germany, and Rowland is exposed to the dangers of the politics of Fascism and what it could have meant for Australia, had Eric Campbell been successful in transplanting the ideas of Hitler to our shores. Rowland’s dangerous and near-death encounters lead into book rowly-4five, Gentlemen Formerly Dressed, and what I see as a shift in Rowly and Wilfred’s relationship – Wilfred seems to come to a better understanding of his brother. I am looking forward to see what books six, A Murder Unmentioned, and book seven bring to the series after I finish Gentlemen Formerly Dressed.

Within each book, Sulari has created a world that is immersive, and delivers the history of the period in an accessible way, in arowly-5 fun way, in comparison to some history books or school textbooks. They are one of my favourite series of historical fiction novels, mingled with crime, intrigue and Rowly’s affection for Edna, which, so far, has not been reciprocated. It is the combination of the characters and plots that pull the reader headfirst into the series, and I hope, makes them never want to end their
association with Rowland.

Paving the New Road by Sulari Gentill

rowly-4Book Title: Paving the New Road (Rowland Sinclair, #4)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: August 1st, 2012

Book Synopsis: It’s 1933, and the political landscape of Europe is darkening.

Eric Campbell, the man who would be Australia’s Führer, is on a fascist tour of the Continent, meeting dictators over cocktails and seeking allegiances in a common cause. Yet the Australian way of life is not undefended. Old enemies have united to undermine Campbell’s ambitions. The clandestine armies of the Establishment have once again mobilised to thwart any friendship with the Third Reich.

But when their man in Munich is killed, desperate measures are necessary.

Now Rowland Sinclair must travel to Germany to defend Australian democracy from the relentless march of Fascism. Amidst the goosestepping euphoria of a rising Nazi movement, Rowland encounters those who will change the course of history. In a world of spies, murderers and despotic madmen, he can trust no-one but an artist, a poet and a brazen sculptress.

Plots thicken, loyalties are tested and bedfellows become strange indeed

~*~

My fourth sojourn with Rowland, Milt, Edna and Clyde took me away from Sydney, and into Nazi Germany, in 1933. The flight with Kingsford-Smith and the ensuing journey set up the identities that the friends were entering the Fascist nation under the iron fist of Hitler on quite well, and their encounters with historical figures and authors along their journey to prevent Eric Campbell from bringing Nazism back to the shores of Australia that further entrenches the story within the historical context it sits within. Rowland’s trip to Germany sees him taking his brother, Wilfred’s place, for the same task for the Old Guard to stop Campbell’s attempts to introduce Hitler’s ideology to Australia. In this book, rather than disdain for his brother, Wilfred expresses concern at the task Rowland has been asked to take on to save him, and the nation, but nonetheless, provides the support his brother needs for the dangerous expedition to Munich and the Third Reich, following the death of the Old Guard’s previous man posted there. The events of 1933 in Germany were instantly familiar to me, having studied them before. I was immersed in the world so deeply, that it penetrated my dreams. The Third Reich period of history, though horrific in many ways, is fascinating as a study into the horrors that the human race is truly capable of if we blindly follow and believe a leader and their ideology, or turn the other way.

In Munich, Rowland encounters Nancy Wake, Unity Mitford and Albert Goring, amongst other figures, mixed up in the mess of the Third Reich and their book burnings, and the beginnings of the expulsion of Jews, Communists and anyone else that the Nazi Party deems unfavourable. These three figures are fighting against it , in such a way that people believe they are actually supporting it: perhaps the best sort of espionage there is…as long as you don’t get caught. It is these atrocities that bring Rowland into direct contact with what extreme politics can really do, despite his adventures in the previous three novels and his constant indifference. The character development of Rowland and his friends in this novel was executed brilliantly. Their run-ins with the SA and Rohm lead to a finale that had me reading until I had finished the book, well into the late night-time hours, unable to put the book aside until I knew Rowland’s fate.

Poor Rowland has been through so much in these four books, always finding himself at the wrong end of the people he is investigating or spying on, but like a true hero, he always comes through, injured, but alive. Rowland has been and will continue to be a favourite character of Australian literature, and I look forward to reading his further adventures. Sulari Gentill has the ability to entrench her readers within the world of Rowland and Woodlands Estate, or wherever Rowland happens to be where crimes are being committed. Books five and six await, and I am eager for book seven when it makes its appearance.

Miles Off Course by Sulari Gentill

rowly-3

Book Title: Miles Off Course (Rowland Sinclair, #3)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: February 1st, 2012

Book Synopsis: In early 1933, Rowland Sinclair and his companions are ensconced in the superlative luxury of The Hydro Majestic – Medlow Bath, where trouble seems distant indeed.

And then Harry Simpson vanishes.

Croquet and pre-dinner cocktails are abandoned for the High Country where Rowland hunts for Simpson with a determination that is as mysterious as the disappearance itself. Stockmen, gangsters and a belligerent writer all gather to the fray, as the investigation becomes embroiled with a much darker conspiracy.

Murder, Treason, Trespass, Kidnapping, Betrayal…

Again, Rowland Sinclair finds himself in the middle of it all.

~*~

We again find our beloved hero, Rowland Sinclair, and his trio of friends, Clyde, Milt and Edna, in a peaceful interlude between mysteries that engulf them and endanger their lives. They are taking a much deserved time-out at the Hydro Majestic following the events of A Decline in Prophets for Edna to recuperate and to try and stay away from politics, but a missing stockman in the High Country property Rowland and his family own, a break-in at Woodlands Estate and murderous Communists and Fascists make sure this quiet retreat is disturbed. Wilfred, Rowland’s older brother, sends him to the High Country and their property to search for Harry Simpson, the missing stockman. Here, Rowly and his crew are met by author, Sarah Brent, the former governess to Wilfred and Aubrey, and belligerent stockman, unwilling to help and even more suspicious of Rowly and his friends as time goes by. Rowland is led to believe that Harry Simpson has up and left, and there is no point in looking for him by the lead stockman left in his place, Moran. It is Moran’s attitude that is perhaps a driving factor in Rowland’s determination to find Harry and discover what his supposed stockmen are up to whilst he lives in Sydney.

The characters feel alive as they tumble over the pages and I loved the cameos of historical figures such as Norman Lindsay. It made the book feel genuine and the setting even more so, because it brings the reader into a real time and place, peppered with real and fictional characters, and their interactions make it all the more interesting.

Wilfred and Rowland’s relationship took quite a turn towards the end of this book – perhaps for the better I hope, but I will have to read the rest of the books to see how it pans out, if the realisation of Rowly’s true allegiance is recognised by Wilfred, even if he does continually disagree with the life Rowland leads in Sydney.