21. – 580.) The Widows of Broome by Arthur Upton (1952) – Napoleon “Bony” Bonaparte is back in northwest Australia. He has been called to the pearling town of Broome where two widows have been strangled to death. Bony goes undercover as the visiting friend of the commanding police officer. In an era when travel was more time consuming and demanding it is not unusual to have a guest for weeks.
Broome had been famous for its pearl shell industry. World War II and a changing world have left the industry barely surviving.
The murders are a puzzle as there were no connections between the women, no physical clues and no witnesses. For this mystery Bony relies on his analytical and deductive skills as well as his physical tracking talents.
Bony is a profiler 40 years before the term was invented. He works to identify a serial killer by assessing physical clues to construct the mind of the killer. While others can only think of a beast in lust Bony is looking for a murderer whose motives are not overtly sexual. He works to find the similarities in the murders to establish a pattern that will guide them to protecting the next potential victim. He carefully considers torn nightgowns and flakes of skin.
Human tracks read by Bony and an aboriginal tracker are again an important part of a rural Australian investigation 60 years ago. Tracks are the most significant forensic work of Bony’s generation.
During the investigation Bony draws upon Earle Dickenson, a local drunk, who resorts to drops of battery acid in water when out of money and desperate for drink.
The bias towards a half aborigine police inspector in the early 1950’s is barely concealed by the community.
While not as compelling as Cake in a Hat Box it is a skillfully written police procedural whose investigation would be contemporary in our era. Upton writes mysteries firmly rooted in Australia. Very good. (Apr.21/11)
- Bill Selnes
- Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
- I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.