About Me

My photo
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.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Death of a Lake by Arthur Upfield

Death of a Lake by Arthur Upfield (1954) – Lake Otway is dying. Three years after it had filled with flood waters a relentless drought is sucking it dry. On the edge of the lake is an out-station for Porchester Station.

Ray Gillen, born in Tasmania, has drifted across the mainland at various jobs and spent some time in the Australian Army serving in Korea. He arrives at the Lake on a motorbike and is immediately hired to work with the stock. One hot November night he goes for a swim and never returns. He is presumed drowned though no body can be found.

Fifteen months later Inspector Napoleon “Bony” Bonaparte is assigned to look into the death.

While many a man has drowned while swimming late at night it is a rare man who drowns with £12,000 pounds in his suitcase. Gillen had shared a winning lottery ticket of £25,000. After cashing in his share he had decided to tour Australia.
At the out-station are 7 men (5 white and 2 black) and two women, Mrs. Fowler and Joan, her daughter. Both of the women are very attractive. They are quite willing to accept gifts and attention from the men but wary of commitment.

Bony goes to the out-station in an undercover role as a horse breaker. He will live with the men and work at breaking a small herd of horses.

Bony is sure the 5 white men and 2 white women have knowledge about Gillen. Since his disappearance no money has been reported and no one has left the out-station.

With his usual patience Bony works his way into the community. When he shows he knows his way around the horses his disguise is accepted.

It is scorching hot. Each day the temperature is over 100 F. The lake is disappearing and the strain on the residents of the out-station is rising.

No one is talking but everyone is anxious to search for Gillen’s body when the lake has dried up.

When the water level goes below 2 feet in depth the birds and animals around and on the lake are anxious. They can sense its death.

There are powerful disturbing images in the descriptions of what happens to the rabbits, hundreds of thousands if not millions of them near the lake, and the kangaroos and other animals when their water supply is at an end. Nature is not benign.

Bony discreetly prods those living at the out-station and friction flares.

While Canadians know cold Australians know hot. When the temperature goes about 110F life is unbearable for everyone and the water level drops even faster.

There is an inexorability to the dying of the lake that carries into the mystery. How and why Gillen died will be resolved when the lake is equally dead. It creates a natural tension to the mystery that is striking.

The book is a fine example of Bony’s understanding of human psychology with less bushcraft than most other Bony stories.
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; (2013) - The Bone is Pointed; (2013) - Q & A with Stan Jones on Nathan Active and Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte - Part I and Part II; (2013) - "U" is for Death of a Swagman (1945)


  1. Bill - I've always liked the way Bony finds ways to weave himself into the fabric of a community. He's skilled at getting people to talk to him. And Upfield's description of nature and of the geography of Australia are very well-drawn. As you say, nature is not benign, and Upfield doesn't shy away from that. Glad you enjoyed this one.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. In the rush of modern crime fiction who would have their sleuth spend weeks working his way into a community. Sleuths are not given the time to integrate into a group. Bony learns and observes where many current sleuths crash around.

  2. This one sounds very interesting, Bill. I have read some of this series but very long ago. I will look for this one and check some of your other reviews.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I have found Bony addicting.