bonyandthemouse

Bony And The Mouse Author : Arthur Upfield
Country : Australia

Bony and the Mouse (1937, also republished as Journey to the Hangman) is the twenty-fourth in Arthur W. Upfield’s series on the mixed-descent Indigenous-Australian Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, informally known as Bony.

Bony and the Mouse (1937, also republished as Journey to the Hangman) is the twenty-fourth in Arthur W. Upfield’s series on the mixed-descent Indigenous-Australian Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, informally known as Bony. In this instalment, Bony investigates a crime in Daybreak is a one-pub town in Western Australia. The pub is owned by an old-timer called Melody Sam — but then so are all the buildings in Daybreak. To Melody Sam comes Nat Bonnar, a half-aborigine horse-breaker in search of a jo. Yet, Nat Bonnar is better known as Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, and there are more pressing reasons for his appearance in Daybreak than job-hunting. The fact is that the normally quiet little community has murderer in its midst – a murderer who has struck three times. What is the connection between these three very differently executed killings? Why is the local aborigine tribe always far away from town at the time of the murders? Why should so many people suspect the strange ‘bad boy’, Tony Carr? Bony needs the cunning and patience of a cat after a fidgety mouse, waiting for an encouraging it to make a fatal move, before he can corner, hypnotise and pounce on its prey.

The old but still popular series was written from the 1920s to the 1960s, enjoying frequent re-editions in different countries (hence the frequent change of titles). Most of the books in this series are set in or near towns or stations in the Australian bush. The books offer a great sense of place and culture of the time, good mysteries to solve, and an ethnically ambiguous detective who balances his ‘innate’ knack re understanding of the Bush to his Holmesian logic. Typically, Bony’s settings avoid larger towns or cities, and the bush is where the narration is at its most evocative and the main character at his best. The outspoken racism of the series may be difficult to digest, as well as the series’ general attitude towards women, as the novels are grounded in the cult of white male mateship—but, as different commentators point out, with a twist. The latter has all to do with Upfield’s outsider status in Australian society and the sympathy he felt for bush life and its Indigenous inhabitants. If we can still enjoy Upfield’s novels, it is because he broke new ground in Australian crime fiction by writing up the mixed-descent protagonist as being able to perform well in both black and white society. Whereas the Indigenous author Philip McLaren has been very critical of Upfield’s stereotyping of the Aborigene, some scholars have also commended his exploration of race matters in Australian crime fiction. It should therefore not come as a surprise that Upfield, in the racist setting of the earlier 20th century,was more popular abroad, especially the USA, than in Australia.

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