I was reading along thinking, "Boy, this is an ordinary book," when suddenly I found Bony faced with a terrible event that tests his whole theory of investigation.
Australian Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) had always thought he could let events unfold. With enough observation, Bony can find the killer. The insane murderer will reveal himself.
Bony can come in after the murder of the itinerant cattle herder George Kendall; he can look over the scene; he can pretend to be an itinerant swagman himself; and finally he can work out who did the murder.
In most cases that has worked for Bony. He has always solved his cases. Many in the Australian police force consider him a genius at finding rural murderers.
Along the way, Bony learns about the meaning of hobo signs, the importance of windmills, and all kinds of other things unique to this region and its people.
Then there is another murder or maybe two, and an event that tests Bony to the core.
As often happens in the Upfield books, the story centers on an Australian landmark, a rural sand wall the locals call The Wall of China. The shifting sand wall, like the rabbit fences and other landmarks in earlier books, makes for a unique setting.
Bony's friendship with a local child, Rose Marie, is special.
For me, this was not the best of the Bony books. So far, that was a book called The Bone is Pointed. But Death of a Swagman is typical Bony. Bony continues to think way too much of himself. He continues to develop strong relationships with local people. And, in the end, he perseveres.
According to Fantastic Fiction, Death of a Swagman first appeared in 1946.
NOTE: Swagmen are itinerant workers who carry their bed rolls, their "swag," on their backs.