#aww2017 Book Review: “A Dangerous Language” by Sulari Gentill

Title: A Dangerous Language (Rowland Sinclair Mysteries #8)
Author: Sulari Gentill
Genre: Historical fiction/mystery
Date Read: 20/09/2017 – 27/09/2017
Rating: ★★★


Leaping into the eighth book in a series without having read the others is a risk. I have to admit the main reason I picked this ARC up on NetGalley was because I had seen Sulari Gentill host a panel at the recent Canberra Writer’s Festival and was interested to sample her writing. I think I probably would have been a bit more engaged had I been familiar with the core cast of characters from books one through seven, but this book was enjoyable nonetheless.

In 1930s Australia, Rowland Sinclair finds himself caught up in intrigues between the government, and Fascist and Communist factions when he agrees to help a notorious anti-Fascist speaker get into Australia before the government can ban him. The journey takes him across Australia and nearly gets him killed on more than one occasion.

I enjoyed the characters in this far more than the mystery or the political machinations, really. The core cast are a really fun bunch, and hopeless romantic that I am, I also really enjoyed watching Rowly wrestle with romantic feelings and other related entanglements. I did enjoy the way Gentill wove actual historical events into the story, though at the same time, I am never quite sure how to feel about actual historical figures as characters in novels.

There were two murders featured in the story, though they felt like window dressing for the political machinations, which seemed to be more of the focus. For a significant portion of the book, there was no focus on either death. One of them was solved towards the end, but the other one was just concluded via a note in the epilogue, and I think was mostly there to create some tension at the beginning of the story, when Rowland and his friends thought the victim might have been their friend and colleague, Edna. Once it was established that Edna was safe, there was no real reason for the main characters to give the death any more than a passing interest.

That sort of peripheral focus on the murders is something I am not sure isn’t a feature of the series. I have no idea what form the mysteries take in the other books and so I don’t know if it is just that I wasn’t used to it, being a newbie. Ditto the excerpts from newspapers and other publications of the time at the beginning of each chapter. I have no idea if this is a stylistic feature present in all the books; if it is, I would probably bear with it a bit more, though as it was, I felt they weren’t always necessary and at times, I even skipped them.

Still, I can definitely see why this is a popular series, especially with those who are big readers of historical fiction.

(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)

(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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