"There is a point we must keep in mind, which is not to give homicide preference over abduction.”
The speaker is Australian Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte - "Bony," to his friends. Bony has been sent to the town of Mitford to investigate the disappearance of four nearly-newborn baby boys, snatched from their carriages and their cribs. Now, a fifth baby has disappeared - and this time, the baby's mother has been murdered. Bony knows that the killer, of course, must be found and caught - but he cannot allow the murder to take precedence over solving the disappearance of the infants. To put it more succinctly, Murder Must Wait. And that is the title of the 1953 classic by Arthur Upfield which is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the full review by clicking here.
Bony - who inherits his talents and abilities from both his white father and Aborigine mother - is proud of the fact that he has never failed to "finalize" a case. But he also realizes that he knows very little about babies, or about how they are raised, or about why these babies are being taken. There are no ransom demands - the babies apparently are taken in such a way that nobody sees anything or knows anything.
So Bony needs some help - and he finds it in the person of First Constable Alice McGorr, a remarkable character, and I think you'll find her a memorable one. Together, Bony and Alice must figure out what really happened to those infants - and, only then, discover who murdered the mother of that fifth baby. I suspect that many readers will be both shocked and deeply moved.
It's a beautiful story, and there are wonderful passages describing some Aboriginal rituals that are truly haunting. I have been a fan of Upfield and of Bony for a long time, and I think this is one of the best books in the series - certainly it shows Bony at his most human and appealing.
Now the bad news: Murder Must Wait, like so many of Upfield's other works, is out of print. If you follow the above links to Amazon, you'll find that Audible has made an audio version of the book available; there are also a reasonable number of used print copies floating around among Amazon's online retailers. As always, the first place to check, if you are fortunate enough to have a mystery bookstore, is with that store to see if they can get it for you.
Because murder plays only a minor part in this story, taking a back seat to another crime, I am submitting it to the My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge to fill a square on the Bingo card calling for "one book that features a crime other than murder." If you're not taking part in the challenge - well, the year is still young; plenty of time for you to visit the blog and join the challenge!