Synopsis: Someone might be killing communists, right as artist/amateur detective Rowland Sinclair finds himself volunteering along with three friends to help deliver journalist Egon Kisch to the Movement Against War and Fascism.
I adored this book. It’s got all the qualities of a perfect madcap mystery, from a loyal quartet of artistic friends, nefarious political operatives, and a good family name that needs to stay out of the muck. Rowland Sinclair wouldn’t feel out of place in the midst of a good Agatha Christie mystery.
I’ll admit that I may be a bit biased, since I’m currently living in Australia, but it was an absolute delight to read a book which takes place in the Australia of the 1930s. There were so many developments (such as the communist/fascist conflicts) that I remained completely ignorant about and that this book did a brilliant job of introducing. Historical fact is masterfully blended with fiction. More than a few historical figures, from Egon Kisch to Stanley Bruce, grace the pages. None of the historical context feels didactic – it all feels startlingly pertinent to the characters’ lives.
Even though I started with the eighth book in the series, I was able to pick right up and understand what was going on. The characters felt fully realized, each with their own little idiosyncrasies and attitudes (poor, long suffering Mary Brown!). The events of prior books were referenced in a way that provided context and more than a little intrigue without merely summarizing the series.
It is the relationships between the four main characters that drives the book. From Milton, the communist and poet (albeit one who spends more time quoting others than writing his own), to painter and handyman Clyde, to the irrepressible Edna, to the wealthy not-a-communist-but-maybe-a-sympathizer painter Rowly all feel honest. You can’t help but root for them.