About Me

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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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Bone is Pointed (1938) by Arthur Upfield

The Bone is Pointed (1938) by Arthur Upfield – In the vast spaces of western Queensland a small station is the Gordon place of 300,000 acres. Their neighbours, the Lacey’s own the huge Karwir station.

The Gordons have taken upon the unusual role of protecting and offering a place to live to the Kalchut tribe, a group of about 60 aborigines. They have shielded them from de-tribalization by governments and missionaries. The Kalchuts are amongst the last tribes in Australia living a traditional lifestyle.

Old Lacey, a vigorous 70 years old, dominates Karwir clearly intending to run Karwir until he dies.

Jack Anderson, a stockman for Karwir, disappears while checking fences during a rare heavy rain. The local police investigation is unable to even determine if he is dead let alone whether he has been murdered. Many suspect the Kalchuts as Anderson has brutally assaulted two members of the tribe and never faced criminal charges. At the same time all acknowledge that he was disliked by almost everyone in the area of Opal Town.

Napoleon “Bony” Bonaparte is summoned some months later to undertake a new investigation. Heedless of time he advises he will take months if necessary to determine what happened to Anderson.

His knowledge of tracking and keen skills of observation are well described by Upfield. Yet Bony also embraces modern science. A microscope is used in the analysis of evidence.

As he patiently determines the facts those involved in Anderson’s disappearance grow more worried that he will fulfill his prideful statement that he has never failed to solve a case.

An interesting aspect of the book for me was the role of rabbits. For the first time in my reading I specifically learned of the problems caused by the exploding rabbit population in rural Australia and how the people coped with them.

At the heart of the book is the interaction between the half caste Bony and the Kalchut. He dresses, talks and lives the life of white Australians though only reluctantly accepted by them. Were he not an obviously gifted investigator he would be marginalized. At the same time he remains attached to his maternal aboriginal origins. He is conflicted about his mixed blood. While proud of his skills from his aboriginal ancestry he sees white society as the modern way.

The title refers to a traditional aboriginal method of punishment. Barely more than witchcraft for most whites “bone pointing” is a terrifying and real to aboriginal Australians. The power of the mind is potent.

The language of the book will make current readers cringe on occasion in how aboriginal people are looked down upon and crudely dealt with by white Australians. I do not see it often in crime fiction but there was a female character just as prejudiced as the men.

It was clear to me as I read the book that Upfield had respect for and appreciation of aboriginal people and culture. Subsequently, in Arthur William Upfield – A Biography by Travis B. Lindsey I read from a letter Upfield wrote to J.K. Ewers at the time he wrote the book in the late 1930’s about his intentions with the book:

I set out to write a readable book having much aboriginal law centred around the ancient boning of a human being. The more anthropologists of repute study the Australian abo. the further they are mystified by the origin of the race, and the more clearly do they come to think that the race was highly developed when the white and yellow races were human gorillas. I know that the general idea of the abos., based on the Bulletin drawings and jokes is that they are half-wits, and here I have tried to make people understand that the reverse is the truth.

As with most books in the Bony series it could not have been set anywhere else but Australia. The plot is so closely tied to the land, the weather, the people and the cultures of the outback.

It is the best book I have read in the series. It is both psychological and physical with a subtle interplay between mind and body. (Jan. 20/13)
My earlier posts on Arthur Upfield and his books are:

Upfield, Arthur - (2011) - Cake in the Hat Box; (2011) - The Widows of Broome (2011) - "U" is for Arthur Upfield; (2011) - The Bushman Who Came Back; (2012) - The Will of the Tribe; (2012) - The Battling Prophet; (2012) - "U" is for Arthur W. Upfield


  1. Bill - I think you've highlighted two things that Upfield did extremely well. He depicted the lives of the aboriginal people with dignity even while being honest about the prevailing assumptions about them. And that is not easy. He also was I think a master at creating a sense of place and context. The reader really feels the setting - well, this reader anyway.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I equally believe Upfield did well in the areas you described. I appreciate authors who capture their settings.

  3. Thanks Bill for your comment of the book "The bone is pointed"; I am French and live in Paris, and I take a great pleasure reading this book. This takes a long time to me because of the language barrier but the preasure is great, great!!. Sylvie

    1. Sylvie: Thanks for the comment. I am glad you enjoyed the book and hope to hear from you again.