Thursday, August 11, 2016

DEATH OF A SWAGMAN by Arthur W. Upfield

Arthur Upfield's Death of a Swagman sneaks up on you.

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.


Nan said...

Such a delight to see someone reading the Bony books! I recently went through every one.

Joe Barone said...

Nan, I'm slowly working my way through them in order. I ran across them in an interesting way. The little library at our retirement center put out a part of a man's library who had recently died to give away. He was a former missionary to Australia (years ago). He had about five or so Bony paperbacks in the stack and I cabbaged on to them. After the first one I read, I was hooked. At first, I bought used books. Then they started to be republished in inexpensive electronic additions. Bony is quite a character.

Nan said...

Yes, all mine are kindle books. I've just started a new series that reminds me of Bony in one way. Inspector Singh from Singapore is always leaving home to solve mysteries.

Joe Barone said...

Nan, I have read a couple of Inspector Singh mysteries and liked them. Sorry to be so long in replying. Our Internet has been out and it took five days for them to come repair it. I always appreciate your comments.