Author: Sulari Gentill
Publisher/Year: Pantera Press 2019
Shanghai in 1935 is a twentieth-century Babylon, an expatriate playground where fortunes are made and lost, where East and West collide, and the stakes include life itself.
Into this, Rowland Sinclair arrives from Sydney to represent his brother at international wool negotiations. Rowland is under strict instructions to commit to nothing… but a brutal murder makes that impossible.
As suspicion falls on him, Rowland enters a desperate bid to find answers in a city as glitzy as it is dangerous, where tai-pans and tycoons rule, and politics and vice are entwined with commerce.
Once again, the only people Rowland can truly trust are an artist, a poet and a free-spirited sculptress.
Reviewer: Sandra Nicholson
This is the 9th Book in the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries series and was very much anticipated by Sulari’s band of dedicated readers, which includes me. When I read a book, I do so for two reasons – entertainment and to learn something along the way. Sulari never disappoints in either aspect.
This book is set in China between the Wars and looks at Shanghai at a very dangerous time when the British were losing their power there and the Japanese power was on the ascendancy. Rowland is sent to Shanghai as his brother Wilfred’s representative in a business deal relating to the Sinclair stockpile of top quality wool. Rowland is told under no circumstances is he to agree to a sale of their wool to the Japanese. Rowland agrees to go on condition that his three friends, Milton, Clyde and Edna accompany him.
Rowland just steps off the boat in Shanghai when the first attempt to kidnap him occurs. His trouble continues as he finds a dead ‘taxi’ girl in his hotel suite, for which he becomes the prime suspect, is jailed in ‘hell’ for the murder of Edna’s stalker and almost killed when he is put into a sanatorium for a disease he doesn’t have.
Woven throughout the narrative is a glimpse into China, and in particular Shanghai, in a period of transition between the Wars, with the waning influence of the British in China, the rise of the powerful Japanese with their connection to the Fascists and Hitler and the gross mistreatment of the Chinese in their own country.
These are all the scenarios Rowland and his close friends have to navigate during their time in Shanghai, as well as the corruption that either turns a blind eye to or supports the cruelty and mistreatment of the indigenous population and anyone who stands up to the corruption. The moral stance Rowland and his friends take set them up against some very powerful people and severely undermines their safety.
Sulari is a great story teller and her Rowland Sinclair series is a testament to the research she does for these books, as historians who have read them have not been able to find any fault in her historical content. So you not only get a great book to read, a real ‘page turner’, but you learn a great deal along the journey.