In the first U. S. release of her Rowland (Rowly) Sinclair mystery series, Australian author Gentill introduces us to the land down under between the world wars. Unemployment is high for the working class and communism is gaining a foothold in their ranks. It is as popular among them socially and economically as it is anathema to the wealthy, comprised of the landed “gentry” and business owners and leaders, including Rowly’s elder brother. These “right thinking men” are leaning toward fascism to secure the country from the communists.
Sinclair is an independently wealthy young man who wants nothing more than to be left alone to pursue his love of painting and the bohemian lifestyle. His household includes two other male artistic hopefuls – both broke and with varying degrees of communist leanings and Edna, a young woman with a passion to sculpt. Like Rowly, she is a member of a wealthy, socially prominent family, but hers possesses far more liberal attitudes toward life and art. Rowly is not so much apolitical as indifferent to much outside of his artistic and free living community. This comes to a screeching halt when his kind, generous uncle (for whom he is named) is cruelly murdered.
The more he tries to solve the murder, the murkier the path becomes. Gangs of communists, fascists, and gangsters all possibly have motives and it is all Rowly can do to follow the various leads, unravel the clues, and avoid being severely injured or killed.
Like his late uncle, Rowly has a basically kind, if insouciant, personality. And despite the seriousness of the story’s basic premise – there is a murder, after all! – much of the dialogue is the well written snappy repartee as portrayed by Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh in the past and Kerry Greenwood today. Clever, dry British humor is without match when properly done and Gentill nails it in A Few Right Thinking Men. Read it for the mystery, the history, and the wit – it doesn’t disappoint in any sphere.