David's Reviews > Death of a Lake

Death of a Lake by Arthur W. Upfield
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's review
Sep 22, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: aussie-crime-fiction

Enjoyable Australian crime fiction novel, written and set in outback Australia during the 1950s. This is the 18th Inspector Napoleon Boneparte novel written by English-born Australian author, Arthur Upfield (1890-1964).

Inspector Napoleon 'Bony' Boneparte is sent to a vast outback sheep station disguised as a horse-breaker to investigate the mysterious and unsolved disappearance 18 months earlier of stationhand Ray Gillen. Gillen had previously won the lottery in Queensland - a lucrative motive for his sudden disappearance. One stifling night he went for a swim to cool off in nearby Lake Otway and was never seen again. Did he drown? Was he murdered? What secrets do the lake and/or the residents of the outback station hold? And thus the plot thickens.

The Lake itself becomes a central feature of the novel. Lake Otway is a fictitious non-permanent lake (possibly based on Lake Eyre). It becomes a vast body of water every 20 or so years and then slowly dries up over the next 2-3 years as drought once again takes grip. It's evaporation runs parallel to the storyline - only when it dies back to bare earth in the intense outback heat will the mystery be solved.

Overall, in keeping with the times, a nice clean-cut mystery with inferred sexual tension and not a swear word in sight. Occasionally I found the language perhaps a little dated, although in equal parts, I enjoyed the 'Australianisms' of the era. Cobbers rolled smokes, skinned rabbits, ate kangaroo steaks for breakfast and talked of their dusty outback travels around campfires heating the obligatory billy.

The main character Bony spends most of this book impersonating a horse-breaker. He is part-Aboriginal and is laconic, even enigmatic in the way he goes about his business in this novel. Having not previously read any Arthur Upfield books, I only glimpsed the true authoritative police aspect of Inspector Boneparte towards the end of the book. Nevertheless, I liked what I saw and can see how Upfield managed to base some 29 mystery novels around him over 30+ years.

More of a mystery to me, is why it has taken me so long to read one of these books. The descriptions were fantastic. I could feel the intense outback heat and the choking dusty grip of drought. I enjoyed Bony and the cast of outback characters, and found the plot strong enough to build intrigue and suspense throughout the book. I am glad I have discovered this series, albeit belatedly, and I will be back for more.
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Reading Progress

September 22, 2011 – Started Reading
September 22, 2011 – Shelved
September 24, 2011 –
page 120
September 26, 2011 – Shelved as: aussie-crime-fiction
September 26, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Cathy (new)

Cathy Nice to hear that you have enjoyed discovering these - I read the Bony books in the high school library when I first started - many years ago now! There was a tv series back then in the dim past starring James Laurenson - I loved it too, but imagine it would be quite dated by today's standards

David Thanks Cathy. I have only just discovered Mr Upfield and 'Bony'. Although now that you mention it, I do seem to recall having seen an episode of the TV series at some point (many moons ago). I wonder if it is available anywhere (DVD/Video etc). I'll have a search anyway - and I will definitely seek out some more of Upfield's books at my local library. Depending on what is available, I will probably aim for the ones that were written later in the series, as I think the pre WWII ones would definitely have dated.

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