Thursday, November 10, 2016

THE DEVIL'S STEPS by Arthur Upfield

Arthur Upfield’s The Devil’s Steps was too complicated for me.

Australian Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) is working for military intelligence. He is stationed at Wideview Chalet, an Australian resort in the shadow of Mount Chalmers.

When someone kills a foreign agent pretending to be a guest at the resort, the hunt is on.

Bony’s friend Bisker, the alcoholic resort go-about, hides a whiskey bottle in a flower pot.

But Bisker was not the only one to use the flowerpot as a hiding place. When Bisker goes back for the bottle, he finds two gold fountain pens taken from the dead man’s body.

Bony discovers microfilm rolled up in both pens.

In an attempt to steal the pens, another nefarious character kills a local policeman. Then someone else holds up Bony and steals the pens. And the story goes from there.

Everyone in the story has a complicated backstory. Even the well-portrayed sympathetic characters have complex stories to tell.

And Bony stays with the investigation after his superiors try to call him home. He can’t leave the murdered men unavenged (or a case unsolved).

As always, Upfield writes beautiful, detailed descriptions. The half-caste Bony uses his bush tracking skills to follow the “devil’s” size twelve footprints etched in the damaged frost-covered grass. And the story ends on a positive note.

I prefer the Bony stories where he is working in the desert, at sea, or in the bush. I found him too constrained in the restricted setting of Wideview Chalet. And the story was so complicated that I skimmed through some of its explanations.

Still, I enjoy reading about Bony. I love Upfield’s views of the countryside, his skill at describing characters (especially the sympathetic characters), and his main character Bony. 

The Devil’s Steps (first published in 1946) is the tenth book in the Bony series.


Nan said...

Yeah, even the Bony books that aren't the best still offer the reader more insight into the man. I so love this series.

Joe Barone said...

Nan, I love the series too. I am working my way through it. If I remember correctly, you've read them all. I always hope my few hundred words about each book might help someone find and enjoy Bony.

George said...

I've read several Arthur Upfield mysteries over the years. I've enjoyed them all.

Joe Barone said...

George, I enjoy them too. I learned about Upfield when an old minister in our retirement center died and they put books from his bookshelf out for the taking. They included several Upfield's Bony books. That man had at one time been a missionary in Australia.