Shortlisted for the Davitt Award for Best Adult Novel for 2015
Shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel 2015
The gun used in Rowland Sinclair's father's death some thirteen years earlier has turned up in a drained dam at the family's country homestead in Yass. And when Rowland offends right-wing New Guard leader Eric Campbell, Campbell uses his influence to set the police to renew their inquiries into Henry Sinclair's death.
Henry's friends had all been led to believe that the wealthy landowner had died in a much more respectable way. Rowland and his elder brother, Wil, had avoided any discussion of the event ever since-in fact the whole family had ducked the issue for over a decade, keeping secret that Sinclair senior was murdered. The possible involvement of the teenage Rowly and his older brother's intervention has been under the radar as well.
But now the finger of blame is pointing squarely at the Sinclair black sheep, a man careless of what society and the authorities think of him. So he and the trio of artist friends who live in his Sydney suburban mansion, and generally have his back, avail themselves of a racing green Gypsy Moth (Rowland is a pioneer in air travel) and a yellow Mercedes sports car (another frightening mode of transport) to arrive in New South Wales' Southern Tablelands, bent on clearing Rowly's name.
With cameo appearances from historical figures-Bob Menzies in the Sinclair kitchen, Edna Walling in the garden, and Kate Leigh grinning lasciviously at Rowly in a jailhouse crowd-and a real sense of fun contrasting with the quite genuine tension, this is historical crime for those in the know and those who can barely remember what happened last weekend, a story of family secrets and fraternal loyalty. Despite the humor, the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries take a deadly serious look at the 1930s, reflecting our own tumultuous times.
About the Author
After setting out to study astrophysics, graduating in law and then abandoning her legal career to write books, Sulari now grows French black truffles on her farm in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of NSW. Sulari is author of The Rowland Sinclair Mystery series, historical crime fiction novels (eight in total) set in the 1930s. Sulari'sA Decline in Prophets(the second book in the series) was the winner of the Davitt Award for Best Adult Crime Fiction 2012. She was also shortlisted for Best First Book (A Few Right Thinking Men) for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2011.Paving the New Roadwas shortlisted for another Davitt in 2013.
Read an Excerpt
SYDNEY GIRLS TO FLY FOR THEIR BREAD AND BUTTER
Two Sydney girls, Miss Nancy de Low Bird, aged 18, Manly, and Miss May Bradford, are working hard to win their 'B' (commercial) aviation licenses. When they win them they plan to take up flying as a profession. Both are pupils of the Kingsford Smith flying school.
Nancy Bird, who won her 'A' licence in September, now has it endorsed (50 hours flying solo) so that she can take up passengers, but she cannot obtain her 'B' licence until she is 19 next October. Her age is a handicap to her ambition, which is to secure all engineers' licences, but she must be 21.
— Morning Bulletin, 1933
* * *
Edna Higgins clasped the hat to her head as she watched the racing-green Gipsy Moth glide gradually back to the Mascot Aerodrome. She waved more out of exhilaration than any expectation that her salute would be seen. Beside her, Milton Isaacs attempted to push a particularly ugly greyhound back into the yellow Mercedes. The misshapen dog resisted, straining against the lead in its desperation to chase the biplane. The poet dragged the greyhound back, cursing as his immaculate cravat was pushed awry in the battle.
The Rule Britannia touched gently down onto the tarmac and taxied to a stop. Charles Kingsford Smith climbed out of the passenger seat, pausing to speak at length and, by his posture, quite stridently, to the pilot before he jumped down from the fuselage.
A girl in overalls emerged from the hangar. "He banked too hard on the turn," she said, grimacing. "Smithy's letting him have it!"
"Really?" Clyde Watson Jones folded his brawny arms. His weathered face creased into sceptical lines. "You could tell that from here?"
"Of course," she replied.
Loyal Clyde rolled his eyes. Some pilot's daughter, no doubt, convinced she knew everything about flying. As far as he could tell, the flight had been perfect: the Gipsy Moth soaring into the sky, executing several acrobatic manoeuvres and then returning to the ground in a series of precisely angled glides and turns. Clyde had been impressed though not surprised.
Rowland Sinclair pulled himself out of the cockpit, patting the Rule Britannia's fuselage affectionately before he strode over to greet his friends.
The ecstatic greyhound broke away from Milton, hurling itself at its master, who reeled backwards under the impact. "Lenin, settle down, mate," Rowland said uselessly as the dog writhed with the momentum created by the movement of its overlong tail and tried to pull the leather gloves from his hands. He laughed, giving in and allowing himself to be mauled with the robust affection. Eventually Lenin calmed and, having claimed a glove, retreated to the car to chew it in peace.
Rowland removed his aviator cap and goggles. He was boyishly elated. Milton clapped him enthusiastically on the back.
"Well, that was a fine thing to see, Rowly!"
Edna embraced him. "I was completely terrified you were going to fall out when the plane turned upside down."
"I banked a little hard on the turn," Rowland admitted. "I wouldn't have tried the acrobatics if Smithy hadn't been on hand to tell me what to do."
The girl smiled smugly.
Rowland winced as he realised his mistake had not escaped Nancy Bird's sharp skyward eye. He introduced his fellow student of Kingsford Smith's flying school. "Miss Bird is a flying prodigy," he said. "She wouldn't have so royally cocked up the turn."
"I've had an extra month's lessons," Nancy conceded graciously.
"You're a pilot?" Clyde looked the diminutive young woman up and down. She was barely five feet tall and wore her hair in braids. "How old are you?"
"Clyde! You can't ask a lady that!" Edna was indignant.
"I'm eighteen," Nancy replied, raising her chin defiantly.
Rowland sighed. "It's embarrassing ... shown up by a child."
"I am not a child!"
He laughed, and then so did she.
Rowland had taken an immediate liking to Nancy Bird. The girl was aptly named, giddy for the clouds with what seemed a natural affinity for flying machines. She'd made clear from the start that she intended to obtain her commercial flying licence, to seek a career in aviation, to set records and win races, while the likes of him were content to simply fly well enough for their own amusement.
If Rowland had not been a Sinclair perhaps he might have sought his fortune in aviation, but as it was, his fortune had been amply made by his grazier forebears. And as much as flight stirred his blood, it did not run in his veins and define his view in the way that paint and canvas did. Even fifteen hundred feet in the air he'd found himself composing a portrait of Kingsford Smith against an inverted horizon. He'd landed exhilarated yet already he longed to take out the sketchbook he carried in his breast pocket and somehow capture the love of speed and freedom revealed in the lines of the airman's craggy face.
Milton handed him a glass of champagne whilst Edna found a bottle of ginger beer for Nancy in the abundant hamper packed by Rowland's housekeeper.
The poet put one arm about Rowland's shoulders and raised his glass with the other. "Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!"
"Keats," Rowland murmured. His friend had been reading Keats of late. Milton's reputation as a poet was earned primarily through borrowing shamelessly from the English bards with neither public nor private acknowledgement that the words were not his own. "Are you referring to me or to Nancy?"
"I'd be delighted to propose an appropriate salutation to the exceptional young lady," Milton said, winking at Nancy Bird. "But I thought that first we should toast the fact that you didn't die."
"Hardly reason enough!" Kingsford Smith declared as he joined them. "But you may want to celebrate that Mr. Sinclair's licence is now endorsed so he may take his biplane and a passenger up whenever he pleases." The aviator accepted a glass of champagne and raised it towards Rowland. "Just watch your turns, Sinclair. The Moth's instruments are very sensitive." He rapped his knuckles against the long bonnet of the yellow Mercedes. "It's not the same as steering one of these hefty contraptions."
Rowland's brow rose.
"You want to get yourself a vehicle with good British engineering," Kingsford Smith continued, warming to his subject. "Still, I suppose all these automobiles will be obsolete in time."
Rowland muttered something unintelligible.
Edna smiled. Rowland did not receive any criticism of his beloved motor kindly. "You could fly back to Oaklea this year, Rowly," she said deciding to direct the conversation away from the slandered automobile.
With the Yuletide approaching, Rowland Sinclair and his houseguests would soon part for the holidays. Clyde would return to Batlow in the high country to visit his parents. As Edna's father was away, she and Milton planned to spend Christmas at a succession of decadent Sydney soirees. Rowland, however, was expected at the family property in Yass, from which his brother, Wilfred, reigned over the Sinclair empire.
"I suppose there are plenty of places to land at Oaklea." Rowland considered the proposition seriously.
"You could take Ernie for a ride," Clyde suggested. "The little bloke would be thrilled."
"Yes, but I'm not entirely sure Wil would be." Ernest was the elder of his two nephews but still only six years old. Although Rowland's place in the oversubscribed Kingsford Smith Flying School had been arranged through Wilfred Sinclair's considerable connections, he doubted his brother would be willing to entrust Ernest to him and the Rule Britannia just yet.
They remained at the Mascot hangar for some time, celebrating Rowland's licence and then watching as Nancy Bird took the Gipsy Moth up. Kingsford Smith provided a commentary as Bird plunged the biplane into more acrobatic manoeuvres, pointing out how the young woman was manipulating the joystick and foot controls to achieve the loops and rolls.
There were moments when Edna just could not look, sure that the biplane would meet tragedy, and others when she gazed upward as mesmerised as the men.
As the afternoon began to slip reluctantly into evening, the Gipsy Moth was returned to her hangar. Rowland took the wheel of the Mercedes while Edna and Milton fought over the front passenger seat. On this occasion Edna prevailed. They drove Nancy Bird home, before returning to the Woollahra mansion which had been the principal residence of Rowland Sinclair and a succession of artists, writers, and poets over the past three years. His current houseguests had more or less become permanent installments at Woodlands House, while others came and went.
It had been the cause of significant friction between the Sinclair brothers that Rowland had converted the grand Sydney estate into some kind of artistic commune, which seemed to exist in a constant state of scandal. In recent years, many heated words had been exchanged over occasional salacious snippets in Smith's Weekly or the Truth — rumours of naked women, wild parties, and decadent immorality that mortified Wilfred but to which Rowland seemed indifferent if not amused.
The newly licensed pilot and his friends were greeted at the entrance vestibule by the upright character and stern visage of Rowland's housekeeper. Mary Brown had served at Woodlands House since well before the war, maintaining what decorum she could with a vexed silence and pointed exhalations of despair.
"Thank goodness you're here, Master Rowly," she said, addressing him in the manner she had since he was a child. "Colonel Bennett has come to call upon you. He insisted on waiting."
"Bennett ..." Clyde's brow furrowed. "He's not ...?"
"Lucy's father?" Rowland finished the question for him. "Yes, I'm afraid he is."
Lucy Bennett was his sister-in-law's chum, a young woman of excellent breeding well-meaning Kate Sinclair seemed determined Rowland should marry. Somehow Kate's hope had become an expectation, one which Lucy herself now seemed to share. For the life of him, Rowland could not think of one thing he might have said or done that might have led either lady to believe he had any interest in marrying Lucy Bennett.
"What do you suppose he wants?" Edna asked quietly.
Rowland groaned. Clyde grasped his friend's shoulder sympathetically and Milton grinned. They all had a fairly good idea.
"I'd better go talk to him," Rowland muttered, removing his leather aviator jacket and exchanging it for the grey tweed he'd left on the coat stand. "Is he in the drawing room, Mary?"
"No, sir. I did not think the drawing room fit for company. Colonel Bennett is waiting in the library."
Rowland smiled slightly at his housekeeper's less-than-subtle rebuke. The drawing room enjoyed excellent light and so he used it as a studio. The fine furniture shared space with his easels and paint boxes, while canvases in progress leant against the expensively papered walls. To Rowland's mind it was still perfectly comfortable and now remarkably functional.
The library was another matter altogether. The room had been his father's and though Henry Sinclair had been dead since 1920, it remained unchanged. Before Henry's death, Rowland had only ever been summoned to the library when his father was displeased. All things considered, it was possibly a more fitting venue for the delicate conversation he was about to have.
Edna grabbed his arm as he turned to go. "You will be kind, won't you, Rowly?"
Milton laughed. "Kind? For God's sake, Ed, that's the least of our worries. Rowly will probably agree to wed the girl so she doesn't think him impolite!"
Edna smiled. "Oh dear, you're probably right." Rowland's excessive courtesy had gotten him into trouble before.
Even Clyde agreed. "Every girl you meet seems to become convinced you want to marry her, mate. It probably wouldn't hurt to be marginally rude."
"Yes, you're all very amusing," Rowland returned, mildly offended. None of the misunderstandings to which they were alluding had been his fault. "I'd better disillusion Colonel Bennett before this gets out of hand." He wasn't sure how he could possibly do it kindly.CHAPTER 2
CENTRE PARTY ERIC CAMPBELL'S NEW PROPOSAL
Sydney, Monday, December 5
The formation of what will be termed the Centre Party, with its ultimate objective the abolition of machine politics by the institution of vocational representation was outlined by Mr. Eric Campbell at a large and representative meeting of the New Guard to-night. The hall was packed with men wearing arm bands of numerous colours, while all entrances were strongly guarded by bands of coatless men dressed in white shirts.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Campbell referred to the "great god of the U.A.P. with feet of clay and a head of concrete" and the "high priests Stevens and Lyons, who are nothing more than a pair of mummers."
Amongst the objects of the proposed Centre Party as outlined by Mr. Campbell, were the unity of political, industrial, cultural and moral functions of the State, repeal of all Socialist legislation, indissoluble co-operation of capital and Labour in all industries, non-payment of members of Parliament, elimination of unemployment by efficient and economic government and development of the country's resources and the freeing of industry from unjust and inequitable taxation.
— The Canberra Times, 1933
* * *
Morris Bennett had taken the chair behind the desk and was ensconced with his pipe and a cup of tea. He stood as Rowland entered, the smart abrupt movement of a military man.
"Colonel Bennett." Rowland extended his hand.
"Rowland, my boy, there you are!" Bennett grasped Rowland's hand in both of his and shook it warmly.
"Can I offer you a drink, sir?"
"Why, yes, dear boy!" Bennett replied enthusiastically. "I expect that we will have something to toast quite soon." He exhaled contentedly. "I've always thought a man should have a son. ... Of course the good Lord deigned to give me daughters!" Bennett sat back and cleared his throat. "I must say I am very happy we're having this conversation, Rowland, very happy indeed."
For a brief moment Rowland seriously considered making his excuses and leaving. But what reason could he possibly concoct to suddenly rush from his own house? So he poured a glass of Scotch for Bennett and fortified himself with gin.
"To what exactly do I owe the pleasure, Colonel Bennett?" he asked, deciding to get straight to the point.
Bennett frowned then. "I had hoped that you might have presented yourself as soon as you returned from abroad, Sinclair."
"I see." Rowland took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, sir, but —"
"Apology accepted, Sinclair. After all, a man must attend to business first, no matter what the ladies want, eh?" He sighed. "Did I tell you that I have four daughters, Sinclair? Four!" Bennett shook his head as if the gravity of his misfortune yet astounded him. "Still, they're not bad gels if you can bear all the silly nonsense that they go on with."
Rowland tried again. "Colonel Bennett, I have the greatest respect for your daughter —"
"Of course these things must be done properly, but Lucy would never forgive me if I stood in your way, which I can tell you, Rowland, I'm not inclined to do. I knew your father, you know ... fine man. I expect you're cut from the same cloth."
Rowland tensed slightly. "I don't think I am, sir."
Bennett laughed. "I recall dining at Oaklea in Henry's time." He closed his eyes to savour the memory with his Scotch. "Extraordinary property. Splendid grounds, magnificent mechanised woolshed — twenty stands — simply superb ... and the house itself ..." His eyes shone, moist with emotion. "A stately oasis of British elegance and gentility in the Australian wilderness. Your father was an exemplary host, my boy ... the finest of everything in abundance ... and your dear mother, as gracious as she was beautiful. What wonderful, wonderful times they were."
Rowland drained his glass of gin silently.
Bennett leant forward and lowered his voice. "I understand that you have been meeting with members of the government since you got back."
"How did —?" Rowland began uneasily.
The colonel grinned and tapped his nose. "I'm not without connections, you know. I presume you are contemplating a career in politics. A fine ambition, my boy. I expect I could be of some assistance to you on that account."
Rowland almost laughed. He had, since returning to Sydney, approached every sitting member of the parliament to whom he could gain access to press his concerns about the excesses of the German government. The process had not left him with a particularly warm opinion of the esteemed members of the United Australia Party. Entering parliament himself was the furthest thing from his mind. "I'm afraid —"
"You'll find Lucy an invaluable asset in that regard," Bennett advised. "A wife can be very near as useful to a politician as his lodge."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Murder Unmentioned"
Copyright © 2019 Sulari Gentill.
Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"A Murder Unmentioned" is another great addition to the Rowland Sinclair series. Rowland and his brother, Wil, are haunted by the ghost from the past in this installment. Their father was murdered thirteen years ago and his death is still an unsolved mystery. When the weapon that killed their father has been unearthed, the brothers are the prime suspects in the eyes of the authority. Another murder case that Rowland entangled himself in, fire, kidnapping and so forth, what's going on? Are the two murder cases related? A political scheme against Wil? Rowland and his bohemian friends decided to take the matters into their hands to solve the puzzles themselves. Yet, the murder of Rowland's father has to be unmentioned. Why? This installment has less political or historical elements than other titles in the series. Instead, readers get to learn more about the relationship between the members of the Sinclair family. Solid writing with an interesting plot though the mystery is relatively weak in "A Murder Unmentioned,", but the story is enjoyable through and through. Sulari Gentil never ceased to capture my attention in her Rowland Sinclair series. No doubt she does great research on the tiniest details on random historical tidbits. The excerpts of the articles or newspaper clips at the beginning of each chapters are always fun to read. A soild 4-star rating.
Australia, murder, historical-places-events, historical-research, historical-figures, historical-setting 1933 in Australia where the political scene is uncertain and the world around is polarizing into some frightening camps. Rowland shares his large home with fellow misfits and continues to grow as a artist. It is a family history, and by necessity it is also a segment of Australia's part in world history. Whatever else it is, it is a riveting book in a fascinating series! This one centers about the unpublicized murder of Rowley's father and the fallout from it. The author is awesome, the series is additive, and Rowley is just so lifelike. Hope the next one comes out soon! I requested and received a free ebook copy from Poisoned Pen Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
A Murder Unmentioned is the newest novel in the Rowland Sinclair series that is published by the Poisoned Pen Press, a great source for mystery novels. The cover reflects the period of the novel. It shows some characters in the book including Rowly's dog, Lenin and his aircraft Rule Britannia. Rowly and one of his friends are inside. As you read the book, this beautiful illustration, is worth going back to for references from the story. For those who don't know, this series takes place prior to WWII when Hitler is in the ascendant and Rowly would like to do all he can to show the world the disaster that is coming. This is always a part of the novels. As has been true in other books in the series, some real life characters make an appearance; in this one thet include politician Bob Menzies and garden designer Edna Walling. The delight of these novels lies in spending time with Rowly and his friends. There is the unconventional artist Edna, the poet Milton and another artist friend. They have communist leanings and are definitely anti-Fascist. Other prominent characters are Rowly's conservative brother, Wil, his wife Kate and their two young sons. Master Ernest is featured in this one as a pivotal character. At only age six, he seems destined to follow in his uncle's footsteps. In this novel, the reader learns a lot about Rowly's early life and his relationship with his sadistic father. You will feel for the young Rowly. This part of the book was not easy reading. When the novel opens, Rowly's father has been dead for thirteen years. The murderer was not found and the central mystery of this one is finding who killed him. This is a good entry in a good series. Many thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for this chance to read the e-galley. The opinions are my own.
Thirteen years ago in 1920 Henry Sinclair was killed, now accusations have been made that Rowland Sinclair killed his father. Old secrets are revealed but will they help to prove his innocence or not. Then another murder is discovered and the noose is tightened around Rowland. An enjoyable and interesting mystery revealing more of the history of the Sinclair family.