It’s 1933 and artist Rowland is enjoying a Blue Mountains break with friends Clyde, Milton and Edna when he learns that his family’s trusted employee Harry Simpson has vanished. Harry’s been kidnapped, and Rowland finds himself in danger as he heads to the bush in search of Harry.
It seems that Harry’s kidnapping is part of a bigger plot and once again NSW politics – as crazy then as it’s ever been or is – is part of it. One way or another, Rowland’s in trouble up to his neck and finds himself captive with Harry deep in the bush… miles from anywhere, miles off course.
This is a rollicking read, galloping along with the pace of a stock horse on the top of a hill. As with her two earlier books Sulari Gentill has researched the era thoroughly, from clothing and food and mannerisms to the seething boiling pot of politics and the delicate subject of treason. A visit to Clyde’s family in rural NSW, for example, is beautifully drawn; the working-class cottage and the slight awkwardness with which rich Rowland is received by the family is a delight and full of attention to detail.
Sly grogger Kate Leigh makes an appearance as does author Miles Franklin – I do love the way Sulari introduces real characters into her books. Even better is the beginning and end with conversations between Norman Lindsay and his wife; I laughed out loud.
And Rowly makes his feelings for Edna very clear, without realising he’s doing it. You’ll have to read the book to find out the how, why and when for this moment!
I picked the villain quite early; the oily little bugger just didn’t seem right, but I didn’t pick the WHY. The unravelling at the plot near the end was thus very satisfying and much bigger than I expected. I was sorry to finish the book and it certainly deserves a re-reading by me sometime soon, when I can savour it and read it more slowly rather than avidly gobbling it.
In the meantime, Sulari Gentill is working on the fourth book in the series which takes Rowly, Milton, Clyde and Edna to Munich in 1933. I foresee some spectacular action!