During the 1930s, it was possible to imagine several countries allying with Germany. In the United States, many Republicans supported the Nazis. In the United Kingdom, there was active support. It is possible if Edward III had not been forced to abdicate, he would have pushed toward an alliance with Germany and in exile, the Duke and Duchess were Nazi sympathizers. The same threat was rising in Australia and Australian politician Eric Campbell wanted to bring fascism to Australia, arguing that democracy had failed.

Campbell went to Germany seeking support and alliances. This is real history, but in Paving the New Road, the fictional Rowland Sinclair and his friends Edna, Milton, and Clyde fly to Germany to foil his plans, replacing a man who drowned while swimming–though Rowlie comes to suspect that he may have been murdered. Their mission is to foil Campbell’s attempts to meet with high-ranking Nazis. They operate less like spies, though, and more like Merry Pranksters.

I like the series characters in these Rowland Sinclair mysteries by Sulari Gentill. I wish the plot was as fully realized as the characters are. The plot was thin gruel and, despite moments of jeopardy, felt more like a lark than a serious effort. They had altogether too much fun fighting the Nazis.

I don’t want to create the impression that Gentill makes light of or diminishes the evils of Nazism. I just think that their success relied on pranks, not so much espionage or investigation. It is also at the beginning of the Reich, where all its evil is not yet manifest, is just beginning to take form. The anti-semitism is present, there are concentration camps, but the Final Solution is not yet in place.

The mystery of his predecessor’s murder is solved by revelation, though suspicions had formed. Also, as in A Decline in Prophets, a photo served as the crucial clue to the solution. I’ve read two books by Gentill and a photo has revealed critical information twice which would be cool if Rowlie were a photographer. I hope the next Rowlie Sinclair mystery is one where he figures things out without seeing a single photo.

And yes, even though I thought this book needs a strong plot, I am looking forward to the next in the series, because I like Rowlie, Edna, Milton, and Clyde and hope to visit with them soon.

I received an e-galley of Paving the New Road from the publisher through NetGalley.

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