Sunday, September 13, 2015


Arthur W. Upfield’s The Mystery of Swordfish Reef puts Australia’s Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) in an unfamiliar setting--the sea.

Bony investigates the loss of a fishing boat off the south-eastern coast of Australia.

The fisherman, his boat, and his two guides disappear. The fisherman is a prominent retired law officer.

When another fishing boat finds the man’s bullet-punctured skull in one of its nets, it is time to call in Bony.

Others have failed. Bony’s skills are particularly suited to the sands of Australia. He can read a hidden trail or see subtle land-locked clues. He knows how the natives and the white settlers think. But can he work on the beautifully described shifting sea?

Using two who know the sea well, Bony maps the movements of the missing boat and all who saw it. And his maps lead him to a rather obvious solution.

At one point Bony says: “I hope, at a later date, that from my papers you will clearly see how important it is to reconstruct the crime and its background. Even on unstatic water objects can be traced and their movements established.”

But there is more to the story than this. Bony catches two huge swordfish, one a near record-breaker, and a Mako shark. He becomes addicted to fishing for swordfish.

He makes a crucial mistake which almost costs him his life. And he attacks and tries to kill a man.

At one point, Bony questions whether he has lost the civilized part of his nature, whether he has become a savage. He is on the verge of despair.

So The Mystery of Swordfish Reef is different. But it still has the same Bony. It also has his wonderful allies, especially Jack Wilton and Joe Peace, the two who run the fishing boat Bony uses.

I enjoy reading about Bony.


Mathew Paust said...

Barone on Bony! Sorry, Joe, simply couldn't resist. Not a seafaring man, nor an Oz aficionado, but you just might have hooked me into tasting a little Swordfish Reef. Thanks for the intro!

Richard R. said...

I have yet to read one of these, though I have several I've picked up over the years. Must set one aside, put it on the TBR pile.

Joe Barone said...

Matthew, The early Bony's are the best, I'm told. (I'm reading through the series with a long way to go.) Another especially good one is THE BONE IS POINTED.

And Richard, as I might have said before, that is sort of how I ran into Bony. A former Australian missionary in our retirement center died. The library set out several of his books to give away, and three or four Bony paperbacks were among them. I took them and let them sit a long time before I read one. That's how I got hooked on Bony. They are more available now than when I started reading them.