Author Sulari Gentill continues The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries which are set in numerous locations, ranging from the dark and difficult days of the Depression in Australia and Europe highlighting the harsh realities of the period. She writes with a great sense of time and place interweaving her fictional characters with skilfully researched historical events, providing snippets of our history.
Combining fact and fiction provides wonderful backgrounds for her cast of characters that centre around the wealthy Rowland (Rowly) Sinclair and his friends. To reinforce the sense of time and place, Gentill begins each chapter with a quotation or newspaper clipping.
In this 8th story, Rowly and his friends become involved in the murder of a Communist sympathiser in Canberra and then, in trying to help Egon Kisch, a communist, peace activist and anti-Fascist, get to Melbourne in time to speak at a Communist conference to warn of the growing Nazi threat in Europe. Rowly borrows a plane and flies to WA to collect Kisch, only to be thwarted by the authorities when Kisch is excluded as an undesirable visitor and is unable to leave the ship.
The friends are yet again embroiled with the Fascists and Rowly is saved from being murdered by Clyde when he is set upon and stabbed in a Melbourne laneway. Although Rowly is sympathetic to left-wing views, after all his friend Milton is a member of the Communist party, he is deeply wounded when an exhibition of his paintings are derided by the critics as left-wing propaganda. Not only has his artistic integrity been challenged but also, he has failed in his attempt to portray the dangers of fascism.
At this time appeasement of Hitler was the popular policy in Australia and England with far more attention being paid to the perceived threat of Communism. The true story of Egon Kisch reflects poorly on the history Australian policies in regard to excluding people from the country. The infamous politically and racially motivated Dictation Test was originally designed to keep out non-whites as the test could be given in any European language. Kisch was fluent in several languages so the test was administered in Gaelic in an attempt to exclude him.
Once again, the derring-do of Rowly and his friends are very skilfully interwoven with real events to result in a jolly good read. I aim to read the rest of this series which combines two of my favourite genres. The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries are a must read for history and crime buffs and I highly recommend them.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 10: 9
Released by: Pantera Press
Release Date: October 2017