The reader of my reviews will know I've become a bit of a fan of the Rowland Sinclair series (which is quite surprising for somebody who normally prefers to lurk deep on the dark side), so PAVING THE NEW ROAD was a welcome arrival. Basing the story in 1933, sending Sinclair and his companions to Germany all sounded rather interesting. Although I will confess that one of my pet peeves - the inclusion of high profile real-life figures in fiction - made me somewhat nervous. Having said that, if you're going to include a real-life figure, then why not somebody famous for being around somebody really famous (as opposed to the really famous person themselves)... If that seems to be ridiculously coy, then my apologies, but sometimes avoiding spoilers in reviews requires Herculean effort.
Given this is now the 4th Sinclair book, I'll leave out mentioning who Rowland Sinclair and his group of companions are and how they came to be. As with all of the series, you could read them on their own, but you really would be better off to go back to the start if you need to, as the background to these characters is part of their attraction.
This book, in particular, is littered with real-life references that are very recognisable. From Charles Kingsford-Smith providing transport for Sinclair's group to Europe, Adolph Hitler (although he's more referred to, as opposed to incorporated into the story), through Eric Campbell himself (who I was somewhat surprised to find died as recently as 1970 in Canberra), there's a smattering of other names throughout the book that are instantly going to give this story some very firm grounding in a time, and a society, that had such a massive impact on the rest of the world in the years that followed.
There is quite a leap of allegiance in this book as Sinclair reluctantly heads to Germany on a commission from old enemies, although the leap is nicely explained, and given some lovely light touches as Sinclair's friends, masquerading as art dealers, manage to take their revenge with some rather eccentric purchases. What's also very well done is the weaving together of Sinclair's role in Germany - essentially as that of spy - with the solving of the death of the man in whose footsteps he is following. Granted the spying aspects of the plot take up a lot more time than the investigation, but that wasn't in any way unsatisfying or annoying. There's also a very strong sense of the place - 1933 Germany is a worrying place to be in this book - the build up of Nazi fanaticism is stark and frightening, not just because we read about it knowing the ultimate outcome.
Part of the attraction of this series is the combination of historical facts, with a great ongoing cast of characters, all handled with great aplomb by a master storyteller. Who must be good at what she does - littered with references to dresses and clothes, incorporating a pet peeve of this reader, and a combined spy thriller and crime investigation - and I still thoroughly enjoyed PAVING THE NEW ROAD.