A Decline in Prophets: A Rowland Sinclair Mystery

Written by Sulari Gentill
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In the first-class dining room of the luxury ship Aquitania, “Death wore a dinner suit.” Also on board are moneyed Rowland Sinclair and his group of bohemian friends, including the attractive Edna, a sculptress. He’d taken them along from Sydney, Australia, on a European holiday for the better part of 1932. Now returning home, they socialize with other passengers en route: Annie Besant, president of the Theosophical movement; Krishnamurti, an Indian mystic; Orville, an Englishman; and an Irish Catholic bishop and his entourage, including the lovely Isobel. Rowland objects to Orville’s amorous advances on Edna. Later, Orville is found stabbed to death by Rowland’s cane. As other murders occur, Rowland is implicated and he has to expose the killer.

Sulari Gentill has penned this appealing whodunit in the classic style, but with an Australian twist. The unique setting of a luxury liner, instead of the more usual drawing rooms or train, adds to the novel’s appeal. Gentill describes the passengers’ social class differences effectively in this mystery. The well-narrated scenes and the introduction of some real-life characters take us back to the pre-WWII era. Although this is second in a series after A Few Right-Thinking Men, it can be read as a standalone. Readers will look forward to the next installment.