Tuesday 14 November 2017

A Murder Unmentioned by Sulari Gentill

A Murder Unmentioned by Sulari Gentill is the sixth book in the Rowland Sinclair series of crime mysteries set in Australia in the 1930’s.
One of the author’s trademarks throughout this series, and one of its most enjoyable aspects, is the cast of historical characters she skilfully weaves into the narrative.
Kingsford Smith, Nancy Bird, Robert Menzies, along with some notorious Sydney underworld figures, are some of these characters she includes in A Murder Unmentioned, bringing to life the atmosphere of Australian life in the post-Depression years.
Historical characters of the times have been a focal point in each of her books, however, in A Murder Unmentioned the plot takes centre stage, and it’s a good one. Suspense, mystery and plenty of twists kept me glued to its pages and made this my favourite book in the series so far.

Rowland’s father, Henry Sinclair, died when Rowland was 15 years of age and throughout the series references to his authoritarian and domineering personality are made, but he is mostly kept in the background. His portrait hangs on the wall of Woodlands, Rowland’s home that he shares with his three Bohemian friends, Clyde, Milton and Edna, an imposing and disapproving presence glowering over everyone that comes within view. Frequent mention is made of Rowland’s reactions to this painting over the course of the series, and here he remarks to Edna that the reason he hung the picture in his home was because,

“My father always liked to keep an eye on me.”

Edna wondered if she had misjudged Henry Sinclair. Rowland rarely spoke of his father but that need not, of itself, mean that their relationship had been strained. Perhaps it was a silence born of loss. Perhaps, beneath the outward severity, Henry Sinclair was an artistic soul. Rowland’s talent, Edna reasoned, must have come from somewhere. “It’s a shame he didn’t live to see your work, Rowley,” she said quietly.
Rowland frowned, his jaw tightened . “It’s not a shame at all, Ed.”

In previous books we had a hazy view of Henry Sinclair, but now we learn who Henry Sinclair really was and of his harshness and cruelty to his youngest son, Rowland.
When new evidence emerges about Henry Sinclair’s death and a former employee turns up to implicate family members, Rowland and his older brother, Wilbur, have to face the past, their individual fears and their secrets.
As always, Sulari Gentill doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects, but in her delightful way she infuses some well-timed Aussie humour that takes the edge off the heavy stuff without detracting from the seriousness of it. Quite a skill!
I’m looking forward to the next book so much but I’m getting impatient for Edna to get over herself and reciprocate Rowly’s feelings!

I’m linking up with Brona’s Books for the AusReading Challenge 2017 over the month of November. Come and have a look at some of the great Aussie titles on her blog!



Brian Joseph said...

Great review. Using the painting as a plot device to remind the protagonist of his authoritarian father seems like a clever plot device. The book sounds very good. The characters sound interesting.

Carol said...

Thanks Brian. I don’t usually care for books in a series as they tend to have lousy endings and keep going ad infinitum but this series has been quite enjoyable. When I read this book I realised that the author must have spent some time really thinking about and planning where this was all going to end up and when to draw upon the past to create more story.

Michele Morin said...

I love Aussie humor! This sounds like a book with likable characters.

Brona said...

I've heard Sulari talk about these books and she does indeed plan them very carefully. Her husband is an historian, so the facts and all the little details are correct too.

She was planning to finish the series in 1945, with one book for each year. Obviously this plan has gone out the window as we are still in 1935 after book 8!

I've enjoyed all these books, but 6, 7 & 8 have definitely been the best and still getting better, IMO.

The highlight of this one was getting to know about the back story with Rowly's father. It has given the series an emotional depth that rewards the constant reader :-)

Carol said...

Hi Michele, the series has grown on me, partly because the characters are very likable & with each book they become more multi-dimensional.

Carol said...

I'd read that her husband was an historian & that does give her books an added authenticity.
Good to know that the books get better - often with a series the author struggles to keep things going and I agree about the emotional depth Sulari brings into this book.

Carole said...

Interesting cover...