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Miles Off Course: A Rowland Sinclair Novel


Miles Off Course: A Rowland Sinclair Novel

The adventures of Australian artist Rowland Sinclair continue as he is dispatched to the Outback in search of a valued ranch manager who has mysteriously disappeared. Rowly has been appointed by his brother, Wilfred, to the board of directors of the Sinclair family’s vast empire, despite his total disinterest in its inner workings. Something has run afoul at ranch headquarters, and Wilfred feels that putting Rowly on horseback amidst the rough-living stockmen is a good place to start.

Rowly’s wish is that this assignment will allow him to miss the upcoming dreaded annual board meeting, which he likens to sitting with a pit of vipers. He bargains to bring along his group of eclectic friends --- fellow painter Clyde; Milton, a tinhorn would-be poet; and the beautiful sculptress Edna Higgins, a model for his popular nude paintings. Past adventures have shown us that his bohemian entourage is capable of surviving entanglements with police, kidnappers, tar and feathering by enraged crowds, even assassins on the high seas. So he and his friends set off in his Mercedes-Benz, ill-prepared for the fate that awaits them in the Snowy Mountains. One should always be careful of what one wishes for.

"The adventures of Rowland Sinclair and his sidekicks are a pure delight, no matter where the booksellers place them on the shelves."

Treacherous creatures of the four- and two-legged varieties, venomous snakes, roaring rivers, rugged mountains, dripping caves, bandits, and vast grasslands dotted with tens of thousands of cattle ripe for rustling await their arrival. Rowly, with friends in tow, will encounter them all in their action-filled journey.

Ever on the lookout for promising new mystery writers, I first encountered Australian author Sulari Gentill late last year through her novel, A DECLINE IN PROPHETS, which was reviewed here in December 2016. I was so intrigued by her merry band of 1930s libertines that I explored her backlist and discovered A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN online, the first of seven novels. Books two and three have been published on this side of the pond by Poisoned Pen Press, introducing American readers to these delightful adventures, laced with wit and featuring colorful characters. I make it a habit to read the first book in any newly found series in order to become acquainted with the protagonist's back story. In this case, it is protagonists, because Rowly is never far from his entourage, dear friends to him but considered hangers-on by his dour older brother.

What genre do you assign to Gentill’s novels? Historical fiction? Mystery? Spy thriller? Western? Historical Fiction: Each chapter is introduced by local newspaper clippings of actual events that Gentill appropriately weaves into the storyline to set time, place and events in the reader’s mind. The time is the early 1930s, and like America, Australia is in the early throes of what will become the Great Depression with the aftermath of the Great War not far behind them. Mystery: Murder most foul is committed, frequently often, and Rowly and friends must turn detective in order to save their own skins from going to jail and get the bad guys. Spy Thriller: Communist and Fascist groups are active in the cities trying to infiltrate commerce and society. Western: The Australian Outback has often been referred to as the wild, wild west of 19th-century America. 

The adventures of Rowland Sinclair and his sidekicks are a pure delight, no matter where the booksellers place them on the shelves.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on June 23, 2017

Miles Off Course: A Rowland Sinclair Novel
by Sulari Gentill