By Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Ultimo Press, 2024

Publisher’s blurb

She needs to write the ending … before she meets hers.

Theo has one dream—to become a bestselling author. Determined to make her mark in the literary world, she heads to the US on a whim to stay with her brother Gus and focus on her writing. But her plans take an unexpected turn when she befriends a famous author, Dan Murdoch, at a local bar—and then he turns up dead. Suddenly, Theo finds herself as the prime suspect.

As Theo grapples with the shocking turn of events, she realizes that Dan may not have been the person he seemed to be, and there is something sinister going on in the world of publishing. Desperate to clear her name and uncover the truth, Theo sets out on a quest to find out who killed Dan and why.

As she digs deeper, Theo uncovers a web of deceit, conspiracy, and hidden motives, with clues leading her to a shadowy organisation with far-reaching power. With her own life in danger, Theo must unravel the mystery before she becomes the next victim.


by Nette HILTON

This is a sophisticated crime fiction story in the hands of a very sophisticated writer. 

The characters are a lot of fun ranging from likeable, eccentric, to slightly crazed. The plot line likewise – and totally engaging. A great book to take on a journey even if you’re staying in the armchair. It is hard to put down with many twists to keep the reader enthralled.

Theo, the protagonist, chases her dream of authorship to America burning all her bridges, as she determines to write the bestselling novel. Her brother, Gus, a truly likeable character who is the best brother anyone could have, helps her to chase her dream. Soon, however, she finds herself amid a murder in which she is the main suspect. The victim, a man she thought she could easily love, is seemingly murdered without reason. Gus involves Mac, his friend and private detective, to try and help her clear her name. The killers and a strange cult prove to be elusive, but the hunt intensifies when Theo disappears with the murder conviction still hanging over her head. The chase, the clues and the exciting conclusion are guaranteed to keep page-turners happy. 

The setting, likewise, is keenly observed and succinctly captured with such authority that there is no room for doubt that these places, cafes, streets, houses really exist. Or do they? So cleverly placed within the pace of the story that there is no time to move away to check if ‘Benders Bar in downtown Lawrence’ really exists. With excellent eye for detail only the most relevant aspects are described and the reader is comfortably and easily able to construct and view the place that has been created.

In all aspects of this work, Gentill has done her homework. Small gems pertaining the to the work of private detectives, police, and the eccentricities and beliefs of doomsday preppers are planted so neatly they provide tiny clues that reveal and add depth to characters throughout the book. Small conflicts and confusions become a natural consequence of these tiny inclusions rather than simply providing evidence of research having been done. This is a well-honed craft and testament the author’s talent. 

Differences in culture, American and Australian, are celebrated and form delightful humour to embellish a great story. Again, Sulari’s gift for creaming what’s important and where she can use it comes through in the dialogue between Gus and Theo and later, Mac. Lovely moments when expressions and actions that are incorrect in a country different to your own are drawn into the limelight and sprinkled throughout adding hidden clues and added delight to a great story.

On a more sensitive note, the inclusion of homeless people and the attitudes depicted by the staff at the restaurant play well into highlighting a social issue that is common across the world. This is extended later in the book when Mac and Gus set off to try and find Theo in an alternative lifestyle commune/cult. Once again there is an opportunity to include a range of different lifestyles and life expectations that play out both for the American and the Australian reader. It is here where the pace slows somewhat. While there is a need to explore the accusations laid against Gus, it might have been better served if treated more swiftly. 

In spite of being slowed in the race to the end and to find out ‘whodunnit’ and ‘howdunnit’, The Mystery Writer rates high in crime writing and more especially in the crime puzzle – so many clues, so many leads and so much to keep you guessing.