Sunday, August 5, 2012


In Arthur W. Upfield’s No Footprints in the Bush, Australian Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) fights a war. Literally.

Bony goes into the bush to solve the murder of two aboriginal herdsmen. He witnesses the assassination of a local police official and the witness he is transporting. An airplane bombs their car. Then Bony learns of a bitter battle between a rich outback squatter and his insane son, the man who murdered the two herdsmen.

In the battle, Bony’s greatest ally is the Wantella tribe's chief, Burning Water, almost a brother to the squatter.

In a way, this story is the story of Burning Water and his people. Everything that happens revolves around them.

It is also the story of what it means to be a half-caste, half aboriginal and half white. Both Bonaparte and his adversary are half-castes.

The story has more setbacks for Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte than any other of the Bony books I’ve read. This book is a real barnburner. Bony has an insane but worthy adversary.

As always, Upfield paints the Australian outback in a way no one else can. His rich descriptions help the reader see the setting. Also, he gives deep insight into aboriginal ways. At one point, Bony’s strongest ally violates an aboriginal taboo though he knows he will die for it.

I wish these books were more available. I found the ones I’m reading on the throw-away table of the small library in the retirement center where I live. The family of a deceased Methodist minister, a missionary in Australia, gave his books to the library. The library kept some and disposed of some.

The four Upfield books on the table looked interesting. They were all 170-200-page paperback books with miniscule type. With this book, I’ve read all four.

I’d read more if I could get them.

So, if you happen to run across reasonably-priced Bony books by Arthur W. Upfield, snap them up. They are well worth reading.

P.S. After I wrote this, I looked on Amazon. They list these small paperbacks available from their used book vendors for reasonable prices. I will be reading more of the Bony books.

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