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Give the Devil His Due: A Rowland Sinclair Mystery


Give the Devil His Due: A Rowland Sinclair Mystery

A visit with friends in Australia, aptly described as the Wild, Wild West of early 20th-century America, has topped our bucket list for years. I associate this land with Crocodile Dundee, the late Steve Irwin and his family’s wildlife series, Bill Bryson’s hilarious IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY, and even fantasy author Terry Pratchett, who addressed its otherworldliness to stoke our imaginations in THE LAST CONTINENT. More recently, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” on Netflix featuring 1920s flapper Phryne Fisher most nearly reflects the setting of the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries in the early 1930s as the forces of communism, fascism and Hitler’s rise to power loom over the continent.

Artist Rowland Sinclair, known to his friends as Rowly, and his conservative brother Wilfred are heirs to a massive estate in southwestern Australia. Rowly’s entourage --- which includes the beautiful Edna, a model for his famous nude portraits; Milton, an ersatz poet with leftist leanings; and Clyde, a pragmatic fellow who comes in handy in any brawl that might arise --- all live under one spacious roof in his well-staffed mansion. Wilfred disapproves of his lifestyle, friends and career choice, and lives in the other Sinclair estate near the nation’s capital.

"I have a few books to catch up on, but thanks to Kindle and Poisoned Pen Press, who chose to publish Gentill’s backlist, I’ll be digging for more treasure."

Rowly recently acquired a Mercedes-Benz roadster, which he enters into an auto race on the Maroubra Raceway, known as the Killer Track for its lethal history. Wilfred disapproves of the image of his brother driving a German-made car in these politicized times. When a driver is killed during a test run after nearly forcing Rowly’s Mercedes over a wall on a deadly curve, the victim’s sister threatens revenge as she decides to take the wheel in the final race. When the blood-soaked body of a journalist covering the race is found by Milton, who is no stranger to local police, he becomes the prime suspect.

I am drawn to books that take place in foreign countries, often written by authors I’ve never read before. I inherited a box of paperback mysteries from my late sister, who collected all the greats, beginning with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. I won’t begin to list my faves, but one look at my groaning bookshelves will attest to my greatest weakness --- the delicious sin of curling up with a good mystery for a weekend read. The more exotic the better, playing to my macabre tastes, so books starring spies, detectives and adventurers receive cursory dusting on shelves in every room in the house. Woe be to my children, who have to decide what to do with them. My coffin may be suspiciously heavy.

Back in 2016, I spotted the name Sulari Gentill on the selection list from The title alone, A DECLINE IN PROPHETS, grabbed me. Who was this author, and where was he or she from? Australia? Wow. A quick Google search revealed a mystery buff’s discovery of gold. Even better, a local publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, was publishing her backlist! Based in Australia, it starred an intriguing cast of characters, the wealthy and powerful Sinclair family and its entourage, with enough plot twists to cause me to order her prior novel, A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN. I was rewarded with wit, clever plotting and adventurous characterizations in a colorful setting during historically dangerous times.

GIVE THE DEVIL HIS DUE continues the saga of this daring four who escaped from Germany with scars to show for it in a prior book, met with Winston Churchill in another, and hung out with a young Errol Flynn, who has a passion for race cars in this one. Poor Rowly --- he has to watch as the handsome actor swans off with his heartbreakingly beautiful model, Edna. I have a few books to catch up on, but thanks to Kindle and Poisoned Pen Press, who chose to publish Gentill’s backlist, I’ll be digging for more treasure.

Now, sadly, Australia tops daily news cycles as headlines mourn its loss of human life, wildlife and vast forests. The Land Down Under will be changed forever in our lifetimes.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 17, 2020

Give the Devil His Due: A Rowland Sinclair Mystery
by Sulari Gentill