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“Until men grow wings they must walk on their two feet,” Bony said, and lit the alleged cigarette. “I see a problem I’ve often come across … The gulf existent between the mind of the white man and the mind of the Australian black man. As the mind of the Occidental differs widely from that of the Oriental, so differs as widely the minds of the Australian Black tracker and the Australian white policeman. My birth and training fashion me into a bridge spanning the gulf between them. Your murderer left his tracks without doubt.”
from: The Widows of Broome
A Detective in Australia
At a time when the crime genre was popular with classic detectives and a lot of private investigators like Miss Marple or Lord Peter Wimsey, not only in the USA some hardcore protagonists like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe saw the light of a day, but also in Australia a new type of detective was born. Napoleon Bonaparte, called Bony, the son of two cultures. His father was a white man while his mother was an Aboriginal. He got his brains to investigate and draw conclusions from his white ancestors while his comprehension of nature and human beings came from his mother’s bloodline.
Bony and his cases are far from any idyllic country estate in rural England as well as from the urban jungles of the New World where professional criminals fight each other. Australia is a rather unknown country when Bony steps forward and tackles tricky murder scenes. Bony’s asset is the knowledge of the land, his nature and his inhabitants especially because there is more emptiness in Australia than civilized areas. So each of Bony’s cases is not only the adventure of a whodunnit, but also the journey into a new continent.
Who is Bony?
Bony is about mid 40s resp. end 40s (my guess). He is married with three children, only boys. He and his family live in Brisbane and Bony works for the Queensland Police in the murder squad. He is always impeccably dressed in dark suits with polished shoes – unless he’s undercover. His private life is very private – the novels were written during decades where it wasn’t conventional to include the private life of the detective into the novel. Otherwise: the novels concentrate rigidly on the cases and the solutions.
The cases are somewhere in Australia wherever a policeman from Queensland Police may be of use. Bony has a brilliant reputation: he has never left a case unsolved. So he is often requested to help when local or regional investigations are unsuccessful so far. Of course this means that the reader gets to know many an area in Australia.
Coming back to his age: Bony is ageless. Although the novels were created spanning about 35 years Bony remains unchanged. I havn’t read all the novels, but I cannot remember any striking changes in Bony and his world during the decades. (Maybe that’s because the fast-paced developments of the last two or three decades, mainly the technically driven, the information driven, are far away in the 30s, 40s, 50s …).
… and concerning his name: his mother died when he was a baby and when he arrived at the orphanage he got his name – Napoleon Bonaparte. (Maybe this was some sort of joke …)
The cases in general are dealing with murder. Bony often investigates in small towns or even smaller villages where he is confronted with closely knit communities. Every now and then the Aborigines take over and rule their very own way amid a murder investigation. Bony is the perfect fit to unravel anything sinister in these areas.
Bony is very thorough concerning his methods. He likes to scrutinize any crime scene even if takes hours … He discovers tiny traces and draws his very own conclusions. As a rule this way of investigation is far beyond any attempts of his colleagues having worked so at the case before calling him in.
He also likes to dive into the communities around the crime scene to get to know the dynamics of these groups and their interaction. The reason for a crime is often buried inside close-knit communities amid the loneliness of Australia’s outback.
In a certain way his procedures are old-fashioned and slow while at the same time they are new and exciting for the time and the region where all the disasters and murders happen.
It’s rather a long time ago that I read the novels. Although the German versions are only vintage now, the original English version is full in print. So maybe you like to do a deep dive into Australia and tricky murder cases at least 50 years old. Imagine a world full of crime and viciousness, but without any modern equipment like mobile phones, notebooks, the internet, any data bases … Maybe all is a lot more slowly, but nevertheless it’s thrilling.