Sunday, June 25, 2017

THE MOUNTAINS HAVE A SECRET by Arthur W. Upfield






A QUOTE FROM THE BOOK--

A transformation of himself was going on, and it was not the first time in his life nor the first time he had noted it with incurious interest. It was similar to the transformation of Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll, although the opposing influences where not good and evil, but rather the complex and the primitive in man. The highly-civillised Inspector Bonaparte was retreating before the incoming primitive hunter.

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Arthur W. Upfield’s The Mountains Have a Secret (1948) is one of his best in the series so far.

Australia’s Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) relies on the aboriginal side of his nature to solve the crime. He started on the civilized side and made no progress.

As almost always in these books, the story revolves around an Australian geographical landmark, this time the Grampian Mountains in central Western Victoria. Two young women disappeared in the mountains. To all appearances, someone kidnapped and killed them.

To cover the crime, the murderer kills the yardman at a nearby resort.

Bony tries to break the mystery open by going to the resort disguised as a wealthy nature tourist. He gets nowhere. For the first half of the book, he makes no progress. He almost gets himself beaten to a pulp.

Then he leaves the resort, reverts to his aboriginal self, his mother’s part of his heritage, and taps into a dark part of Australian history.

Bony gets an ally, a young man who loves one of the missing women and wants to learn what happened to her. Along the way Bony watches someone exhume the buried body of the yardman, cremate it, and then become part of the bazaar ritual which gives the book its power.

Bony’s single greatest fault keeps him from bringing the crime to a close, though he is hailed as a hero at the end. He says of himself, “I am a vain fool. If only I had not attempted to grab all the glory.” And that sums up Bony’s abiding weakness. He is too prideful. He always solves the crime, but often his pride gets in the way.

What I have said is intentionally vague. I wanted there to be no spoilers in these comments if I could help it. But I would say this--If you want to read one of the best of the Bony books, read The Mountains Have a Secret.

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P.S. I have said elsewhere that my favorite of these books in the series so far is The Bone Is Pointed.  That remains the case. 

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