Monday, May 26, 2014
Review of A Decline in Prophets by Sulari Gentill (Pantera Press, 2011)
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.