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Rowland Sinclair, Clyde Watson Jones and Milton Isaacs are at the show. Edna Higgins, who prefers not to see ‘grown men reduced to simpering lovesick boys by shiny machines’ has not accompanied them to Melbourne. Rowly has purchased a new car: a Chrysler Airflow. The plan is to pick up Edna at Albury on their way to a house party in Yackandandah. What could possibly go wrong?
Ms Gentill weaves her fiction around facts, and quite a lot was happening in Australia and in Europe in 1934. A visit by Egon Kisch, an internationally renowned peace advocate is planned. It is possible that the government might refuse him entry, or delay his entry so that he cannot speak at the All Australian Congress of the Movement Against War and Fascism to be held at the Port Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne between the 10th and 12th of November 1934. Rowly volunteers to fly to Perth to bring Kisch to Melbourne. Additionally, Rowly Sinclair is approached by the Communist Party of Australia, which was quite active then, to observe proceedings at the Australian Parliament in Canberra. Rowly refuses: he may be broadly in sympathy with the party, but he’s not a member. Milton Isaacs is, though, and the four friends decide to travel together to Canberra.
Against a backdrop of the struggle between Australian fascists and communists, the MacRobertson Air Race (part of Melbourne’s centenary celebrations), the mystery of the ‘Pyjama Girl ‘ murder, life for Rowly Sinclair and his friends becomes complicated.
There’s a murder in Canberra, on the steps of Parliament House. There’s a woman from Rowly’s past, and a trip to Perth to try to get Egon Kisch into Melbourne before he is banned.
It would be possible to read this novel without reading the earlier books, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Ms Gentill has developed such richly three-dimensional characters that knowledge of their backstories is important as is immersion in the history of the 1930s. At this distance, it may be difficult to understand the struggle between the communists and the fascists within Australia before World War II. And, if you’ve never heard of Egon Kisch and the infamous dictation test, then you might be interested in looking up the Immigration Restriction Act 1901.
‘A Dangerous Language’ is the eighth novel in Ms Gentill’s award winning Rowland Sinclair mystery series, and is set in Australia in 1934. I’d recommend these novels to anyone interested in a mystery series set in the 1930s which uses historical fact as its background.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Pantera Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.