During my interview for an internship at Pantera Press*, a small independent publishing house based in Sydney, I was handed a copy of A Few Right Thinking Men by the head of the editorial team. “If you’re going to work here, you should have a Sulari.”
At first, I was excited to be handed a free book, even if I had not heard of Sulari Gentill before. After reading it, I was immensely grateful that I had been handed such a gift as a welcome to Pantera Press.
Sulari Gentill’s A Few Right Thinking Men, is a masterpiece of the murder mystery genre. Set in the Sydney of the 1930s, the novel follows painter Rowland Sinclair as he become tangled up in the case of his rich uncle’s murder. Whilst I am not going to discuss plot in detail (no spoilers here folks), suffice it to say that Gentill hasn’t failed in making a page turning novel threaded through with action, drama, mystery and humour, each in equal measure.
Rowland Sinclair, the artistic ‘black sheep’ of his rather wealthy upper class family, is a delight to read. The novel takes place primarily through free indirect discourse, giving the reader interesting third person insight into Rowland’s mind as he finds himself caught up in a surprising mix of conspiracy, rebellion, “gentlemen’s business”, Communist rallies, rebellious politics, and death.
His mansion often feels like something out of The Picture of Dorian Gray, the suitably large house of the wealthy Sinclair family always filled with broody and at times ridiculous artists and alcohol. However, unlike the house of Wilde’s imagination, Gentill fills the Sinclair home with luxury, warmth and family. Despite the luxury that his home provides, it is clear that Sinclair’s wealth lays most significantly in his friends.
Rowland’s friends are quite the odd bunch, though this only makes them all the more interesting to read: Edna, a brazen sculptures and unabashed nude model, Milton a quote thieving poet, and Clyde, a quiet painter. However, it is immediately clear from the opening pages that these people are more family to Rowland than his own uppity brother. A reader can find themselves quickly very attached to this rag-tag bunch of artists. I myself was fascinated by Edna and her smooth coolness, the way she conducts herself drawing me in with every page. Seeing her through Rowland’s eyes only makes this more evident as she not only hold her own with the boys, but commands the group effortlessly.
Sulari Gentill’s work is masterfully done, the novel’s strengths not only lying in the brilliantly funny and intelligent prose but also the thoroughly researched details of 1930s Sydney. Each chapter begins with an extract pulled from a newspaper contemporary to the novel’s events, the author’s note at the end of the novel a testament to Gentill’s research and creative interpretation of history. As a result of this, she has easily become one of my favourite authors, both in Australia and internationally.
Whilst I have not had the opportunity, or in many cases the inclination, to read a lot of novels set in Australia, let alone Sydney, I felt right at home in this novel. I loved being able to see my city cut out in the pages of Gentill’s murder mystery. As much as it is a stranger in the darkness of the 1930’s Depression, I can see glimpses of my Sydney through the eyes of the artists that roam the streets, sketching out the shadows and light of the city in the best and worst of times.
After reading A Few Right Thinking Men it is no surprise that I have been gradually begun working my way through the rest of the series. Gentill’s commitment to her readership and to ensuring the integrity of her novels has endeared her to so many, her unique and honest approach ensuring her place as a star in the Australian writing scene. I am not afraid to say I am a HUGE fan of this book and her writing, and that is not likely to change anytime soon.
A Few Right Thinking Men, along with the other six novels in the Rowland Sinclair Mystery Series, is available online at https://www.panterapress.com.au/shop/category/11/sulari-gentill and in all good bookstores.
As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to shop at and support their local independent bookstores.
* Despite interning at Pantera Press and receiving a free copy of this book, I was not paid or in any way obligated to write or post this review. I have posted my review of this book solely on the basis that it was an amazing book and I genuinely wanted to write and share a review of A Few Right Thinking Men.
© Hayley New 2015