The Barrakee Mystery by Arthur Upfield

The Napoleon Bonaparte Series (Bony or sometimes Boney for short)  is an early set of detective novels set in Australia, with an aboriginal detective inspector. This first one was published in 1929. The audio warns before heading into them, they are prized mostly for their accurate depiction of life at that time.  What this means is that every character, good or wicked, is so racist that even your embarrassing uncle from Central Queensland would tell them to steady on a bit. I feel the need to note this so stridently because the solution to this mystery story does not work unless you accept the the racist attitudes of the world in which it is set. The science of it literally can’t make sense; and so this is not a “fair play” mystery.

That flaw, or illuminating virtue, aside, the author is skilled at constructing his characters. Many of them are terrible people, but he never quite strikes caricature, although he comes close. His description of station life seems tremendously plausible.

The book is well written, but the endemic racism of the characters is confronting, and you can’t just ignore it: it’s woven into the core of the mystery. If you can get past that, or hold it in your mind without loathing the characters, this is book is recommended for mystery or western readers. It’s available from the Library Service in e-audio and e-text.