This review was first posted on Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan and is reproduced here with kind permission from blogger Bill Selnes.
When in Launceston, Tasmania last year I was looking for Australian mysteries and came across the Pan paperback edition featuring a cover photo of James Laurenson from the “Boney” television series of the 1970’s. The story was written and takes place in the 1950’s.
It is set in the wild and remote Kimberley ranges of northwestern Australia. Detective Inspector, Napoleon (“Bony”) Bonaparte, because of plane trouble is forced to stay in Agar’s Lagoon. While there the local police officer, Constable Stenhouse, is found murdered and his aborigine tracker, Jackie Musgrave, is missing and presumed to be the killer.
The investigation takes Bony into the rugged lands of the ranges talking to the widely scattered families on their stations. It takes tough men and women to survive in this country.
It is a rare man who is not a hard drinker. The town is noted for being surrounded by a ring of empty liquor and beer bottles. Too expensive to return they are dumped.
Bony is an anomaly in the Australia of the 1950’s. Half aborigine he has gained a position of importance and respect in the white world. In the northwest Australia of that time the aborigines are divided between the station blacks (workers and servants for the white settlers) and the wild blacks (still existing off the land).
While the whites use radio transmitters the blacks take to the air with smoke signals that efficiently communicate messages between camps.
As Bony investigates he becomes aware there is a parallel black investigation taking place. It was fascinating to read of the black justice system.
Travel is slow and difficult. There could not have been a greater contrast with Mission to Chara. Bony averages 3-10 mph with stops for tea and conversation. There is a measured pace to the investigation. In Mission Colonel Phinney was traveling over 2,500 mph with decisions being made in seconds. There is less time for reflection in the 21st Century.
It was an excellent story with a murder and solution rooted in the land of northwest Australia. In contrast to the stretched out novels of our age the book was 175 pages. I am going to search out more Bony stories. (Mar. 2/11)
WHILE APPRECIATING COMMENTS FROM ALL VISITORS I WOULD BE VERY INTERESTED IN COMMENTS FROM AUSTRALIAN VISITORS ON THE BONY BOOKS 50 TO 80 YEARS AFTER BEING WRITTEN AND THE T.V. SERIES CLOSE TO 40 YEARS AFTER THE SHOWS WERE TELEVISED.
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