The Widows of Broome (Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte #13) by Arthur W. Upfield

‘Situated on the barren, inhospitable coast of the north-west of Australia, Broome’s only excuse for existence is pearl shell.’

Detective-Inspector Bonaparte (Bony) arrives in Broome after two well-to-do widows are murdered by strangulation. The murderer has apparently left no clues, the local police are shorthanded, and the town is on edge. Bony, posing as a visiting psychiatrist, has barely started his investigation when a third widow is murdered. But this time, the murderer may have been careless. Bony, with the help of Mr Dickenson, a colourful local character, starts to form a picture of the murderer. He is aided by footprints, three bundles of silk rags, and the sound of clicking teeth.

Time is running out: can Bony protect the remaining widows of Broome?

I enjoyed this clever, well-written murder mystery. I vaguely remember the Boney television series which ran for two seasons in the early 1970s. My mother was a big fan and read each of the novels. This is the first novel I have read, and I will look out for the others. Given the age of the novel, it is worth including this editorial note:

‘Part of the appeal of Arthur Upfield’s stories lies in their authentic portrayal of many aspects of outback Australian life in the 1930s and through into the 1950s. The dialogue, especially, is a faithful evocation of how people spoke. Hence, these books reflect and depict the attitudes and ways of speech, particularly with regard to Aborigines and to women, which were then commonplace.  In reprinting these books the publisher does not endorse the attitudes or opinions they express.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith


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