All The Tears in China by Sulari Gentill

You’ll have to wait until January 2019 to buy this, but if you are a fan of the series, you won’t want to miss it.

‘Perhaps it was a good time to be despatched to China.’

Rowland (Rowly) Sinclair’s efforts to assist the Communist Egon Kisch at the end of 1934 and into early 1935 (read ‘A Dangerous Language’) has made him very unpopular with some Australians. As Rowly’s nephew, Ernest, says:

‘Pater said that half of Sydney wants to kill you.’

So, when Rowly’s brother Wilfred asks him to represent him at international wool negotiations in Shanghai, leaving Australia for a while is not unattractive.  Especially when his friends Edna Higgins, Milton Isaacs and Clyde Watson Jones are to accompany him.  Rowly is under clear instructions from Wilfred:

‘Your purpose is to hold our place in these meetings.  Just listen and be pleasant.  For God’s sake, don’t sign anything.’

In 1935, Shanghai is a glittering, glamourous place.  It’s also a dangerous place, where loyalties and the law can be difficult to navigate.  It seems that everyone is welcome in Shanghai: there are impoverished Russian nobles and badly behaved English-speaking expatriates.  There are opium dens and sing-song bars.  East meets west in Shanghai, but there is a strict hierarchy, and a marked difference between those with means and those without.   But all Rowly needs to do is attend meetings and listen.  What could possibly go wrong?

A woman is murdered.  Her body found in the suite occupied by Rowly and his party. Suspicion falls on Rowly.  Naturally, Rowly fights to clear his name.  Naturally, his friends try to help.  And naturally, because this is Rowland Sinclair, things become complicated, other people with vastly differing interests are involved.  There are red herrings to sort, complicated relationships to try to make sense of, and plenty of action.  In order to clear his name, Rowly Sinclair needs to find out who killed the woman and why.  There are plenty of twists and turns in this story, with a bit of a surprise at the end.

Each chapter of the novel opens with an excerpt from a contemporary newspaper or magazine article.  I enjoyed these excerpts which serve to ground the novel in its time period and give an indication of contemporary concerns and attitudes.

This is the ninth novel in Ms Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair series.  While I think it possible to read and enjoy the novel as a standalone, I’d recommend reading the series in order.  Why?  Because Ms Gentill has created such marvellous main characters that one encounter will surely not be enough.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Pantera Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

 

#AWW2019

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