Both of these books were ARC from NetGalley. I've been a slow reader with all these books because sometimes the format is not ready for commercial use yet.
A Few Right Thinking Men is a fictional book, set in Australia in the 1930s. It's by Sulari Gentill and is the first of her Rowland Sinclair series. The Last Stone is a true-crime book about a cold case investigation that was solved.
A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill
Title: A Few Right Thinking Men
Author: Sulari Gentill
Page Number: 349 (paperback)
Genre: mystery, cozy mystery, fiction, historical fiction
Publisher: Pantera Press, an indie press from Sydney, Australia
Rowland Sinclair is an artist and a gentleman. In Australia's 1930s the Sinclair name is respectable and influential, yet Rowland has a talent for scandal.
Even with thousands of unemployed lining the streets, Rowland's sheltered world is one of exorbitant wealth, culture and impeccable tailoring. He relies on the Sinclair fortune to indulge his artistic passions and friends ... a poet, a painter and a brazen sculptress.
Mounting tensions fueled by the Great Depression take Australia to the brink of revolution.
The cover that they sent with the e-book is the first edition but I really love the third edition. Just as aside. There are nine books in this series, with the last being published January 2019.
Gentill positioned her book as a cozy mystery...and I think she succeeded! I tend to not enjoy cozy mysteries for some reason but I really liked the setting and atmosphere that Gentill created. Depressed Australia in the 1930s was such a lush setting--all the political upheaval, social unrest and shift in cultural norms was exciting.
Rowland 'Rowly' Sinclair is apart of the wealthy Sinclair family, and is shielded from the chaos and poverty in Australia at the time. He's an artist and the artist community is a hotbed for rebels...so his artsy friends are absolutely the 'riff-raff' of society. It keeps this book from being another of the English type of mystery where the titled man solves crime. I'm sure there's a better name for that genre but I can't think of it. Gentlemen-detective?
Rowly's uncle is murdered during a home invasion and Rowly hopes to solve it. Although Rowly does just that...the focus is more on the machinations of several political splinter groups, like the Communists, Fascists and Monarchists for example. I'm not normally keen on a political intrigue when I'm reading a murder-mystery book but this is so well done that I didn't mind it. It's obvious that Gentill was meticulous in her research.
Other than Rowly and his family (brother, uncle, sister-in-law), the cast includes Clyde (painter), Milton (poet) and Edna (sculptress and artist's model). I believe Edna will turn out to be Rowly's love interest as there was some positioning that way.
Other reviews I've seen note that all the books in the series can be read as a stand-alone, which is no mean feat. Overall, this is a well-written, polished, factual and interesting book. The setting is brilliant, the characters are well composed and the mystery is intriguing. I'm not keen on cozy-mysteries or political intrigues/thrillers but this book did hold my interest. I'd recommend if cozy mysteries, historical fiction or political intrigues are of interest as Gentill covers all that in this first book.
Sulari Gentill webpage
Pentera Press page on A Few Right Thinking Men has an excerpt as well
The Last stone by Mark Bowden
Title: The Last Stone
Author: Mark Bowden
Page Number: 340 pages
Genre: nonfiction, true crime
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
On March 29, 1975, sisters Katherine and Sheila Lyons, age 10 and 12, disappeared during a trip to a shopping mall in suburban Washington, D.C. Three days later, eighteen-year-old Lloyd Welch visited the Montgomery County Police with a tip: he had seen the Lyons girls at the mall that day and had watched them climb into a strange man’s car. Welch’s tip led nowhere, and the police dismissed him as a trouble-making teen wasting their time. As the weeks passed and the police’s massive search for the girls came up empty, grief, shock, and horror spread out from the Lyons family to overtake the entire region. The trail went cold, the investigation was shelved, and hope for justice waned.
Then, in 2013, a detective on the department’s cold case squad reopened the Lyons files and soon discovered that the officers had missed something big about Lloyd Welch in 1975. That same week, a young girl who had seen the Lyons sisters at the mall described a man who had been following her throughout the day. An artist had even produced a sketch: It looked remarkably like Lloyd.
I still feel bad about this...but for some reason I didn't realise this was a true-crime story that focused on the investigation and I thought it was the weirdest murder-mystery fiction book ever! There is not one place that describes this book as fiction (it's actually mentioned several times that it's true crime!) so I have no idea where that came from.
It's about the cold case investigation of two young sisters, Katherine and Sheila Lyon. The Lyon sisters disappeared after a trip to the mall. The author, Mark Bowden, actually covered the case when Katherine and Sheila were first reported missing so it's quite nice that he gets to see the end of this case.
The focus is on the investigation and the investigators. Unfortunately, sometimes the almost clinical transcriptions of the interviews are somewhat of a drudge...but isn't that what detectives do at times? Drudge work can get the job done.
The main suspect appears at the beginning of the book because he gives a tip to the police, but since it led nowhere and his interview was a bit kooky he came across as more of a time-waster than a suspect. Later cold-case detectives reviewed his tip and his resemblance to the suspect sketch from another tip and tracked him down.
I've been appreciating true-crime books which take a different approach than the norm. Here the kidnapping and eventual murder of the Lyon sisters aren't graphically detailed over chapters. Welch isn't glorified or thought of as a master criminal. Instead, the pain-staking investigation, the many interviews and the way the detectives gathered evidence of a crime that happened forty plus years ago create the narrative.
It's a good book, although some sections drag a bit. I liked the new perspective on the investigation and investigators themselves. I would recommend this book just for the amount of patience the detectives had when dealing with Welch and his family...and the messed up family themselves. Seriously, some people shouldn't have kids...lots of abuse there. Yikes. The look into how a cold-case investigation occurs was fascinating and I don't think I've read anything like that before.
Grove Atlantic's page on the book
Mark Bowden's website
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