On the tenth day of Bookgiving, my true love gave to me:
Man of Two Tribes, by Arthur W. Upfield
The Nullarbor Plain of South Australia is so vast a wasteland, so flat and unrelenting, that the train line runs across the plain for hundreds of miles in an absolutely straight line without so much as a curve or an angle to break the monotony. Somewhere along that straight line of track, a woman stepped off the train one night – and vanished. An exhaustive search for miles on each side of the track revealed no trace of her. It wasn’t until several months later that a man got off the train at one of its stops in a tiny town on the plain and began the search anew. The man was Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, known to his friends and colleagues simply as “Bony,” a man who had never failed to complete an investigation. What he found, in the course of his search, was totally unexpected – and such an enormous secret that even the pursuit and capture of a murderer would become almost secondary. The story is found in Man of Two Tribes, a 1956 mystery by Arthur W. Upfield.
It is considered politically incorrect in some quarters to like Upfield's books about Bony. Too bad. They are excellent mysteries starring one of the most engaging and interesting detectives in all of mystery fiction. Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, of Australia's Queensland Police, is half Caucasian, on his father's side, and half Aboriginal, on his mother's. He has grown up with the best abilities and traits (and, occasionally, some of the most debilitating ones) of both races. Many of the Bony books are set in the wasteland of the vast Australian desert, the Outback, where only Bony's tracking and survival skills can help him survive. The Outback itself is a central character in many of the books; it certainly plays that role here, particularly in the last half of the book, when he must shepherd a band of people across hundreds of miles of desert on foot.
That's all I'll say about the plot. I think the premise of the book is audacious and breathtaking, and I can't think of a better introduction to Bony. These books were out of print for many years. Happily, the Upfield family is now re-releasing them in a variety of formats. It's available as a hardback book and also for e-book readers, including this edition for the Amazon Kindle. If you want to listen instead of read, there's an audio version from Audible and there's even an MP3 version on CD.
(If you came in late, here's what we're doing for Bookgiving - I hope you'll join in!)