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The Sands of Windee

Page history last edited by Jon 14 years, 8 months ago

Upfield, Arthur - The Sands of Windee (1931)


A prolonged (282 pages) and leisurely investigation in the remote Outback of NSW by Detective-Inspector Bonaparte. An early mystery which spends a good deal of time introducing Bony's quirks and strengths and establishing his links with the Aboriginal tribespeople who camp around Windee Station. A corrupt Sydney police officer has vanished from the neighbourhood. No body can be found, but Bony is convinced that it is murder, and takes a job on Windee as a horse breaker while he begins a slow and careful sifting -- real and metaphorical -- through the sparse evidence. There are fine passages describing the bush and its human and animal inhabitants, and -- of course -- the bushfire without which no Australian novel is complete. Some clues are kept back, and impatient readers will probably think of many ways in which Bony could have accelerated the investigation, but for those with the spare time to spend a slow weekend among the saltbush and claypans this is highly recommended.


By the way, Upfield genuinely seems to have believed that Aboriginal elders could learn and cultivate psychic powers -- a surprising romantic fantasy in someone who appears to have been otherwise so level-headed. They play a small, non-crucial role in this Bony story, as in several others.





The third Upfield I’ve read—three strikes and you’re out.  It starts well, with some good detection from unusual nature clues (the famous ants carrying sapphires into their nest), but soon goes downhill.  Very padded with descriptions of outback life and natural disasters; the landscape is more important than the plot or detection.  The method (used in real life by one of Upfield’s erstwhile friends) is ingenious—rather Thorndykey (ashes and burnt bone—the importance of minutiae).  Solution identical to The Bone is Pointed: accidental murder in self-defence / protecting friend, conspiracy to conceal crime, involvement of Aborigines.


Nick Fuller.


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