Wednesday, August 2, 2017



“The bush is your spiritual home, Bonaparte. Tracking white criminals in a city is evidently not your métier.”

Arthur W. Upfield’s The Bachelors of Broken Hill (1950) is different.

Mixed race Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) usually works in the Australian bush. This time he works with the police department in Broken Hill, a larger mining city in New South Wales.

Someone has murdered two sloppy bachelors and will murder more. The bachelors have one thing in common. They often have food-stained clothes or ties. Someone poisons them by slipping cyanide into their tea cups.

Bony teams up with a friendly snitch, a house burglar who has come to Broken Hill to escape the authorities elsewhere. The burglar expects to live on the money he brought with him. He will do an occasional break-in to maintain his skills. But Bony has different plans for him.

The Bachelors of Broken Hill is a more usual police procedural than the previous books. Bony enlists a local artist to draw pictures of the killer using witnesses’ descriptions. Each of the pictures seem to show a different woman. But usually, she has the same unique purse.

Bony takes on a local police sidekick, something he often does.

Someone murders a female police clerk using an unusual glass knife. Bony solves the clerk's murder and finds a connection between it and the first killings.

The Bachelors of Broken Hill ends with Bony and his snitch friend in the midst of an unfolding horror story, a scene different from anything in the earlier books.

The Bachelors of Broken Hill has humor, horror, Bony in a different setting, and Upfield’s usual wonderful descriptions of a unique Australian place.

I get the impression that by the late 1940s and early 1950s Upfield was at the height of his story-telling powers. This book was a fun book for me to read.

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