The ninth novel in the Rowland Sinclair Mystery series by award-winning author, Sulari Gentill.
This is the ninth novel in the Rowland Sinclair Mystery series by award-winning author, Sulari Gentill and, although it can stand alone, I recommend you read the series in order to get the full flavour.
Rowly’s somewhat stuffy older brother Wilfred sends him from Australia to China to represent him in negotiations over the wool clip, as he is unable to get away due to complications with his father-in-law’s estate. Rowly has strict instructions not to commit the family firm to anything, merely to be a place holder for Wilfred.
As this is really going to be just a junket, Rowly takes his dear friends with him: Milton and Clyde and sculptress, Edna, whose latest obsession is film making. They have barely got off the boat when thugs attempt to kidnap Rowly – an increasingly common crime in Shanghai.
In 1935, Shanghai was a treaty port, with a whole raft of countries holding trading concessions, attracting people from all over the world. The Japanese already controlled Manchuria and the Nationalists had rid the city of most Chinese Communists in a brutal purge. It was both a glamourous and dangerous placed inhabited by legitimate Australian and European business people, organised crime gangs, drug runners, White Russians, desperate refugees from Europe and Asia plus the native Chinese.
In a nod to the history of the time, each chapter begins with a press excerpt such as that from the Singleton Argus of November 1934 which notes the distressed condition of Russian refugees with women being forced to engage in prostitution to earn money for food. Thus when we meet the vivid characters the sense of time and place is enhanced by these snippets of real history.
The author’s research is thorough and well used, creating a vivid picture of the almost ‘Wild West’ atmosphere prevailing in Shanghai at the time – where anything goes. Rowly soon find himself in deep trouble when a ‘taxi dancer’ is found dead in his suite. And Gentill introduces a United Nations of characters – both good and bad – who work to either free or further entrap Rowly, with his friends leading the charge to clear his name.
Gentill has the rare ability to write both a compelling, sparkling and, at times, humorous narrative; full of twists, turns and a shoal of red herrings; and at the same time include historical characters and facts which serve only to further enhance the stories of Rowland Sinclair and his friends.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Distributed by: Pantera
Released: January 2019