The following review is a collection of my personal thoughts and comments on the book, A Few Right Thinking Men, by Sulari Gentill, the first book in the Rowland Sinclair Mystery series.
Excerpts from the book, A Few Right Thinking Men, have been used (without the authors permission) to highlight some of my favorite parts of the book, and give readers of the review a taste of what makes the book so great.
I highly recommend it.
“I saw Archie today.”
“What’s he doing?”
“Oh, Rowly.” Edna wrapped her arms around a cushion and hugged it under her chin. “He was picking up cigarette butts from the platform. I think he may be sleeping at Happy Valley.” She shuddered. The unemployment camp out at La Perouse was a desperate, violent place – the refuge of those without any other choice.
I remember seeing or hearing an interview, where Sulari Gentil was explaining how her books, which are set in the middle of the great depression (amidst great political conflicts between the reds and the new guard,) actually reflect what’s currently going on in the world, or more specifically Australia. And how times haven’t changed as much as we’d like to think.
And it’s chilling to be able to spot the similarities from page 4, which is the excerpt I’ve typed above.
I see people scouring the grounds, in car parks, at bus stops, outside pubs, outside the dole office, looking for discarded cigarettes butts. Isn’t that gross? In this day and age, where money is supposedly of the plenty, people are picking up discarded cigarettes butts. Sure, it’s mostly the over-the-top tax on cigarettes and tobacco, and sure, I think Sulari was referring to our racial attitudes and the diversion between political groups, but I think the cigarette quote speaks volumes about the financial times we are currently in and how close we are to another great depression.
But enough about financial poverty, and on-wards with the review!
A Few Right Thinking Men opens up just before the Sydney Harbor Bridge is about to be completed, in a poverty stricken, it’s-getting-worse, economic Australian climate.
The story from there, follows the murder of our main protagonist’s uncle, Rowland Sinclair. His nephew (the main protagonist) who bears the same name, then gets dragged into the sketchy dealings of his murdered uncle’s dodgy business ventures and decides to conduct his own private investigation with his artist friends, Clyde, Milton and Edna, to get to the bottom of his uncle’s murder.
One of the coolest features in the Rowland Sinclair books are the complimentary newspaper articles, at the start of each chapter, from the 1930’s time period. They add a great layer of character and authenticity to the book and its time period. They also give you a 2nd third person perspective of the story, helping the plot move along nice and smoothly. And they’re great if you’re into Australian history and journalism.
But I think my favorite aspects about the Rowland Sinclair series, in general, is the old upper class, middle class and lower class characters and settings.
It’s really interesting to see a story unfold with these three mixes of people.
Obviously we still have the same classes today – even though society has blended, blurred and hidden the lines between them extremely well – its refreshing to see the politics of the different classes discriminating against each other so boldly.
It’s also refreshing that Sulari’s based her plot-lines in the Australian 1930’s timeline, a time space which has been so underused, and that not many Australians are actually familiar with.
Another aspect that I love about Sulari Gentil’s Rowland Sinclair series, is the elegant style and mood of the series.
It’s a very old style, and one that is rarely seen today. I think it would also be very hard to copy and recreate.
The characters have this coolness to them, where they’re well tended to in a rich and wealthy way, but they lack the snobbery that the rich and wealthy usually have.
And while we’re on the subject of characters, I’d like to place a spotlight on the brotherly conflict between Rowland Sinclair and his brother, Wilfred Sinclair. It’s the greatest. I love it.
The tension and disagreeable feelings between their different perspectives of people and how they want to live and display themselves to the public is great. It’s real. It’s believable. It’s funny and entertaining, and its way better than anything you could get out of a mainstream television series like Home And Away.
They ate their soup in relative silence. Over the main course, Wilfred mentioned the painting he had seen on the easel in Woodlands House.
“Is that one of yours, too?”
“Don’t tell me you liked it?”
“I’ve never pretended to know a great deal about art, Rowly.” Wilfred was non-committal. “I must say the subject intrigued me… Were they real people?”
“Yes.” Rowland told him about the meeting in the Domain and the ensuring violence, carefully, for he was surprised that Wilfred was interested, and he was sure that some sort of censure would follow.
He was not disappointed.
Wilfred drank deeply from his glass. “What the devil is wrong with you, Rowly?” he said in frustration. “Don’t you realise how dangerous the Communists are! What’s the point of me…,” he stopped suddenly.
“Point of you what?” asked Rowland.
Wilfred said nothing for a moment. “What’s the point of me fighting for this country if my brother is going to undermine it? What’s the point of Aubrey dying if you’re going to join up with the enemies of our way of life?”
“That’s a bit dramatic, Wil. Have you joined the New Guard then?”
“Don’t be a fool.” Wilfred slammed his fork on the table. Campbell’s Boo Guard is a band of radical no-hopers. I daresay their hearts may initially have been in the right place, but they simply do not have the calibre of men required to do anything but aggravate the situation!”
“Oh,” said Rowly. “They were certainly inflaming things at the Domain last Sunday.”
“That’s besides the point Rowly.” Wilfred glared at his brother over his spectacles. “What are you doing consorting with the Red Army? Aside from being wrong, it’s bloody unseemly!”
Rowland sighed. “A few men in the Domain are hardly the Red Army, Wil. When did you get so paranoid?”
Wilfred wiped his lips with his napkin. Rowland braced for a lecture.
“I want you to get your unemployed, Communist friends out of my house.”
Rowland’s voice became steely. “It’s my house as much as it is yours, Wil, and as you said, they are my friends. They stay as long as they choose to.”
And so the Sinclair brothers returned to silence as they finished their meal, and parted in anger.
The covers (all three versions of them) are gorgeous and suit the series extremely well! I think Pantera Press – and their cover artists – have done a really incredible job of displaying a really great face for Sulari Gentil’s work. The covers go really well with the series!
In short, I couldn’t recommend this series highly enough! It’s definitely a 5 star series. And I can see why the series has won so many awards!
Review by Zakky MC
A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN
Book 1 in the Rowland Sinclair Mystery Series
Shortlisted for Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book
Introducing Rowland Sinclair.
Rowland Sinclair is an artist and a gentleman. In Australia’s 1930s, 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’s sheltered world is one of exorbitant wealth, culture and impeccable tailoring. He relies on the Sinclair fortune to indulge his artistic passions and friends… a poet, a painter and a brazen sculptress.
Mounting tensions fuelled by the Great Depression take Australia to the brink of revolution.
Rowland Sinclair is indifferent to the politics… until a brutal murder exposes an extraordinary & treasonous conspiracy.
Not so long ago, Sulari Gentill was a corporate lawyer serving as a director on public boards, with only a vague disquiet that there was something else she was meant to do.
That feeling did not go away until she began to write. And so Sulari became the author of the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries: thus far, six historical crime novels chronicling the life and adventures of her 1930s Australian gentleman artist, and the Hero Trilogy, based on the myths and epics of the ancient world. In 2014 she collaborated with National Gallery of Victoria to write a short story which was produced in audio to feature in the Fashion Detective Exhibition, and thereafter published by the NGV.
Sulari lives with her husband, Michael, and their boys, Edmund and Atticus, on a small farm in Batlow where she grows French Black Truffles and refers to her writing as “work” so that no one will suggest she get a real job.
Sulari’s first novel was shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize – Best First Book. She won the 2012 Davitt Award for Crime Fiction, was shortlisted in 2013 Davitt Award, the NSW Genre Fiction Award, 2012 Boroondara Literary Award, and the 2013 Scarlett Stiletto Award. She was offered a Varuna Fellowship in 2010.
In the final stages of a new standalone manuscript, Sulari is also working on the seventh book of the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, and playing with ideas for a new series or two… perhaps three.