Dudley arrived as a member of the New Zealand Company on one of the first five ships bringing settlers to New Zealand. While other New Zealand Company men became immortalised in New Zealand history, Sinclair has been overlooked by historians. Holmes skilfully interweaves his story
with the challenges endured by settlers during the early years of colonisation.
As an entrepreneur, Dudley started the first brickmaking business in Wellington, a newspaper and steam mill in Auckland, was a shipowner and merchant, with copper mines on Waiheke and Kawau Islands, and was the first New Zealander to sail to China and Manila. Shortly before his death he had been challenged to a duel and horsewhipped. Someone was out to get him, he told the High Sheriff of Auckland. The next morning he was found dead with his throat cut.
It was assumed he had committed suicide, but this could be the oldest cold case in New Zealand history.