Monday, May 26, 2014

Review of A Decline in Prophets by Sulari Gentill (Pantera Press, 2011)

Rowly Sinclair is the black sheep of a rich Australian family, a bohemian artist with leftist views living on the proceeds of inherited wealth.  Having fled Sydney having foiled a right-wing nationalist plot, Rowly and his working class friends, Clyde, an artist, Milton, a poet, and Edna, a beautiful sculptress and model, have spent a number of months wandering Europe during 1932.  Sensing it is now safe to return home they have boarded the luxury ocean liner RMS Aquitania, travelling back to Australia via New York.  Amongst their fellow first class passengers are leading members of the Theosophists, a religious movement, and a fearsome Catholic Bishop, his wayward niece, and a couple of priests.  Halfway across the Atlantic a former member of the Theosophists is murdered with the evidence pointing towards Rowly being his attacker.  Not long after shots are fired.  By the time they reach Australia a couple more passengers have become victims, with Rowly firmly in the frame for the murders.  The dapper artist, however, is determined to bring the real killer to justice, despite being distracted by a major family event, the christening of his new-born nephew and the attempts of his brother to get him more involved in the family business.

A Decline in Prophets has the feel of a golden age of crime fiction tale, with its focus on an upper class amateur detective and his small band of confidants, the setting on board a luxury liner in the early 1930s, and the form taking a classical style whodunnit.  Gentill pulls off all three elements with aplomb, providing a gently paced, well observed tale of manners and the upper class lifestyle of the period, whilst tingeing the story with darker narrative and keeping the reader guessing as to who the killer is and their motives.  A key ingredient is the character of Rowly Sinclair, a wealthy Australian dilettante with impeccable manners, who attracts trouble and trouble-makers, and his three working class, bohemian friends who live the high life on his tab.  They’re full of playful humour and joie de vivre, even when the chips seem set against them.  They are complemented by their colourful fellow passengers, the rag-bag collection of Theosophists and the more serious Catholic bishop and accompanying priests.   Gentill plays all three groups off against each other generating plenty of potential suspects and subplots.  Back in Australia, Rowly’s stiff upper class family are added to the mix, causing him yet more headaches.  The result is an enjoyable sojourn across the Atlantic to New York then onto Sydney and its wealthy neighbourhoods.


Sulari Gentill said...

Dear Rob

I'm sincerely delighted you enjoyed ADIP after all the trouble you had getting hold of a copy. It's a real buzz to think my work is being read on the other side of the world. Thank you so much for taking the time to review it.

Warm regards


Rob Kitchin said...


sorry it took so long to get round to reading. I was saving it for reading on a transatlantic crossing by boat, then I eventually came to accept I'm not going to set sail. I got as far as booking, but ended up having to cancel,

best, Rob

TracyK said...

Nice review, Rob. I look forward to reading this.