Pantera Press 2019
Sulari Gentill just gets better and better. All the Tears in China is the latest of the addictive and absorbing Rowland Sinclair mysteries. This is the sort of book that makes it seem perfectly reasonable to read till 4am just to finish it, just because you can’t bear not to know the denouement in full and RIGHT NOW.
This adventure takes us to pre-WWII China, specifically to Shanghai. We are dropped into the murky world of gangs, ‘business’, spies, taxi girls, émigrés and the difficult and delicate relationship between the Chinese and Japanese.
As always, the easy prose style carries the reader seemingly effortlessly along a twisted tale. This is not to underestimate the finesse of this writing. To be sure character and plot drive the story at a cracking pace, but the author skillfully takes us by the throat and makes us dwell on her always well-chosen words as well:
‘For a moment Rowland thought they’d succeeded and he’d fallen into hell. Dead men surrounded him, their faces twisted into grotesques., limbs stiff. And laughter, screeching scornful mirth. Hoots and cheers. Whitely’s laugh louder than the others. Then the realisation that he was not dead but that the men beneath him were. Rowland recoiled, bucking thought his hands were still secured behind him. He rolled off the pallet of bodies onto the cement, where for a moment he lay gagging and retching. The noose was still around his neck, the rope never connected to the gallows.’
Sulari Gentill creates filmic clarity in her descriptive passages, painting a picture into which we can so easily put ourselves. As always, history buffs will enjoy the contextualising with news clippings of the time and there is a good measure of ‘Oh really, fancy that!’ for the reader in some of these.
At the end of this riveting Oriental tale, we are all very relieved to be getting onto a ship for home and look forward to our band of much-loved heroes and heroine to be safely back in Oz, ready to fight another day.