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Pushing the Boundaries of Mysteries with Sulari Gentill

From historical intrigue to meta mayhem.

sulari gentill feature

Murder & Mayhem: How did you get into mysteries?

I think I first fell in love with storytelling when I was a child. My father would tell stories, like the stories that were written into the constellations. We'd go out at night, and he'd look up at the night sky, and he would point out Orion, and tell us the story of Orion the Giant. That was why I was confused enough to think I wanted to be an astrophysicist. I thought, “Oh, the night sky is wonderful.” I realized later on, when I went to university to study it, that I'd fallen in love with stories that my father had told about the night sky, as opposed to the stars themselves. So I have been writing in that genre perfectly happily. 

Book cover of jazz age mystery book A Few Right Men by Sulari

A Few Right Thinking Men

By Sulari Gentill

a decline in prophets

A Decline in Prophets

By Sulari Gentill

How did you go from writing your traditional mystery series to more meta-mystery ones?

I love traditional mystery. I love the conversations I can have about politics, and race, and prejudice within the framework of a traditional murder mystery. Part of that is because people know what to expect with the way the plot goes. You can actually load them up with other themes and other ideas, because it doesn't take a lot of effort to follow the plot.

Related: 15 Must-Read Mysteries and Thrillers by Diverse Authors

miles off course

Miles Off Course

By Sulari Gentill

spring releases 2020

After She Wrote Him

By Sulari Gentill

How did The Woman in the Library come about? 

The first part of this story is very meta in its own way. I was writing the tenth Rowland Sinclair novel, which is set in Boston. The reason is that American readers embraced that series and I felt really surprised and grateful, because the series is not set in the US.  I wanted to write the 10th novel in America, almost as a thank you and a nod to American readers.

Related: 12 Mystery Books from Around the World

But the problem was that this was 2019 when I was writing that book. I hadn't been to America in years and I had never been to Boston. So I had a problem. But I had a friend who was in Boston at the time and he was writing his own novel. I wrote a letter and I said, “Can I pick your brain while you're there, so that I can get the elements of place right for this novel?” Because crime fiction traditionally has a very strong sense of place.

where there's a will

Where There's a Will

By Sulari Gentill

a dangerous language

A Dangerous Language

By Sulari Gentill

Do you find that your interest in astrophysics or practicing law has impacted your writing in any way?

The thing I'd say that's impacted my life is in the year I was studying astrophysics; it was pure mathematics. I found when I was writing, I'm what they call a “pantser” in Australia. I don't plot at all; I just sit down and I write. That seems like an unusual thing to do in crime fiction, where there's so many threads and there's red herrings. I think the reason I can do that is because I was trained in pure mathematics. So the logic of mathematics fits very well with a thread in crime fiction.

the woman in the library

The Woman in the Library

By Sulari Gentill