I can't pretend to be an expert on the genre of detective novels, but I do still have a favorite detective: Arthur Upfield's remarkable half white/half Aborigine Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte ("Bony" to his friends). Bony is a remarkable character, orphaned as an infant, educated in both European and Aboriginal cultures, with a Master's Degree in Criminal Science and the ritual scars to show his exceptional accomplishments within tribal culture. His dual heritage offers him unparalleled abilities, as he combines the uncanny ability of the Aborigine to track anyone anywhere with Western methods of investigation. However, it also creates an internal struggle, as Bony works to balance the two very different natures that occasionally war within him. He is proud of his Aboriginal heritage, but fears the intellectual abdication of allowing the "savage" to take the upper hand. (However, in a fight, that "savage" comes in handy.) So for him, creating order is not just a job, it is a very personal goal, as well.
Not too surprisingly, the tales are all set in Australia. The books were written between the 1920s and the author's death in 1964. The outback settings lend the tales a certain timelessness, while the time period also creates some of the situations Bony faces.
Bony is the patient and cerebral detective who takes on lost causes, sees the clues others miss, and solves the puzzle by making connections others fail to see. Upfield has painted a wonderfully detailed image of the detective, with his blue eyes and bronzed skin, his love of colorful fabrics, the cigarettes he rolls himself (always misshapen, usually with a lump in the middle), the charming smile that wins over even those predisposed to believe an Aborigine couldn't be a good detective. Like Sherlocke Holmes, he is clever with disguises. And also like Holmes, while Bony can be a man of action, he prefers to arrive at his conclusions through investigation. But it is those details, like the lumpy cigarettes or his quick smile, that give him life and make you feel that you are reading about a real person -- a real person who gets called every time there's an unsolved mystery.
Causes Cynthia Clampitt Supports
Feed the Hungry, Project Angel Tree, Wheels for the World, Feed the Poor