2 October 2012

Review: A DECLINE IN PROPHETS, Sulari Gentill

  • published by Pantera Press 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-9807418-9-6
  • 354 pages
  • Source: review copy from the publisher
  • #2 in the Rowland Sinclair series
  • Winner of Davitt Award for Best Adult Crime Fiction 2012
Synopsis (from the publisher)

In 1932, the RMS Aquitania embodies all that is gracious and refined, in a world gripped by crisis and doubt.

Returning home on the luxury liner after months abroad, Rowland Sinclair and his companions dine with a suffragette, a Bishop and a retired World Prophet. The Church encounters less orthodox religion in the Aquitania’s chandeliered ballroom, where men of God rub shoulders with mystics in dinner suits.
The elegant atmosphere on board is charged with tension, but civility prevails… until people start to die. Then things get a bit awkward.

And Rowland finds himself unwittingly in the centre of it all.

“I’m afraid, Sinclair has a habit of being in the wrong place every possible time. I would think twice about standing next to him.”
“God forbid, Rowland, you should return home without some sort of scandal… leading some kind of insane cult!”

My Take

In this sequel to A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN Rowly and his entourage have been to Europe and are returning aboard a luxury liner. When the first murder occurs it is not clear what the reason behind it is. It seems that the real target may be the Theosophist leader Annie Besant but then the attacks continue and one victim is a seemingly innocent girl.

Rowly returns home, the central figure of newspaper headlines much to his elder brother's disgust. Wilfred has been hoping the world trip will have settled his brother down. Rowly himself would like nothing better than to be able to return to the quiet life in Sydney and to take up painting again, but Wilfred's son is being christened and Wilfred is determined that Rowly will also take up some familial obligations. Things get nasty when the murderer from the RMS Aquitania makes another appearance.

Once again Sulari Gentill has put together an interesting mix of fact and fiction: 'real' people like Annie Besant, Charles Leadbetter and Norman Lindsay; and fictional creations. The mixture of fact and fiction even extends to the luxury liner she uses as her setting for the first half of the novel.  The Aquitania was the longest serving Cunard liner built in the 20th century and survived service in both World Wars. Although I could vaguely remember reading about Annie Besant, I knew next to nothing about Theosophy and went scurrying off to do some research.

The main characters from the first novel in the series, Rowly's bohemian friends, are all there, and provide a good reason for reading these books in order.

A very satisfying read, good Australian flavour.

My rating: 4.8

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