Apparently, the police were clueless.
The nude body of an unknown man was found entombed in a storage locker inside the Split Point Lighthouse, located on the southeast coast of Australia. Nobody claimed to know him or ever to have seen him before. Police came, looked, asked some questions, got nowhere, scratched their heads, and - eventually - gave up and went home.
That's why, a few months later, a gentleman named Rawlings arrived in Split Point. Mr. Rawlings actually was a very capable policeman indeed - Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who had never failed to "finalize" an investigation. The details of that investigation make up one of the finest books Arthur Upfield ever wrote about Bony. That book, The Clue of the New Shoe, also known simply as The New Shoe and first published in 1952, is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
If you're familiar with Bony - all his friends call him Bony, and I suspect you will too after you have met him - you know that he is a remarkable person. The child of a Caucasian father and an Aboriginal mother, Bony has inherited the best abilities of both races, and he puts them to good use during his investigations. Many of the Bony books are set in the unforgiving landscape of the Australian Outback. Not so with The Clue of the New Shoe, set around the Split Point Lighthouse along the coast, not far from Melbourne. Bony arrives for his undercover investigation of the murder several months after the initial investigation had gotten nowhere. But Bony is persistent and patient. He figures that somebody must know the identity of the dead man. And, by careful work, disguised as a sheep rancher named Rawlings, he manages to discover a variety of clues, not least among them the new shoe of the title. And his success will, more than once, put Bony's own life in danger.
This isn’t really a mystery that relies on solving puzzles – Bony comes by his clues (and shares them with us) through solid detective work, observation and interviews. It’s really a police procedural in form. But the book really comes alive through the characters and the settings.This is one of my favorite Upfield novels. It's a good deal darker than most of the series, and those characters are well-defined and quite memorable. And it's nice to see Bony, with his innate sense of justice and his need to fight his own personal devils, also finding some compassion for the people caught up in what is ultimately a tragic story. It's quite beautifully written. At the moment, it is available in e-book formats (and the Amazon link above will take you to the Kindle version), but there are also used print editions you may want to check out. I recommend it very highly indeed.