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)