This Rowland Sinclair Mystery is set London during the Depression and dark days in Europe under the rise of Hitler. She writes with a great sense of time and place interweaving her fictional characters with skilfully researched historical events, providing snippets of history which are highlighted at the start of each chapter with a relevant, often amusing quotation or newspaper clipping.
Although each book can stand alone, I’m reading them out of order with my first encounter being third book in the series. I continue to think it would be better to read the series in order as this would provide more background about Rowly, his family and his often difficult relationship with brother Wilfred.
The wealthy Rowland (Rowly) Sinclair is an artist and the black sheep of his family. He shares the family home Woodlands with sculptor Edna Higgins, Communist poet Milton Isaac and fellow painter Clyde Watson Jones, a boy from the bush. Edna has frequently been a model for Rowly and he is probably in love with her but she appears not to take him seriously.
Rowly has been tortured by the Fascists in Germany and he and his friends have escaped to London. Determined to warn British politicians about the Nazi menace, he enlists the help of Wilfred, his conservative brother who is in London for an Economic Conference. They are thwarted at the first attempt when the peer Wilfred was to consult on Rowland’s behalf is found murdered in bed at his club, run through by a sword while wearing a women’s nightie!
In a very clever and subtle way Gentill introduces the topic of international finance, very relevant during the Depression. While waiting in the public gallery of the conference for an opportunity to speak to Neville Chamberlain, Rowly meets the author HG Wells who points out his friend John Maynard Keynes, the brilliant economist who promoted the idea of public works to aid recovery out of the Depression. It is here the British Fascists try to finish what the Germans began when Rowly is attacked by Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists thugs.
Some of the twists and turns the friends encounter in London arise from Uncle Hugh, Rear Admiral Sinclair, working behind the scenes because he is concerned about the company Rowly is keeping, that is, Milton the communist. Politicians were not the only ones seduced by Nazi propaganda. The eugenics movement promoted the twisted logic of Social Darwinism and those who were ‘fit’ to breed and it was this mistaken ideology which led to the peer’s murder and Rowly’s kidnapping.
At the conclusion, we meet another famous person at Madame Tussaud’s who shares Rowly’s unease and the dangers concerning the rise of Hitler – Winston Churchill, and so the book concludes on a high note. Rowland Sinclair and his adventures are a great combination of history and mystery and I highly recommend them.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 10: 9
Released by: Pantera Press
Release Date: November 2013