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The Barrakee Mystery: 07/03/19

The Barrakee Mystery

The Barrakee Mystery by Arthur W. Upfield is the first of the Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte mystery series. It's set in an area I backpacked in during my last two weeks as an AFSer. That was my initial reason for picking it.

The murder victim, King Henry, is an older aborigine recently arrived to New South Wales. He's killed during a fierce thunderstorm. No one in the area remarks on the weird whirling sound.

So at this point, well before the introduction of the detective, I'm mental replaying the stupid boomerang scene from Sherlock. Now I think I know where the nicked the idea. At least there's no spinning couch.

Enter Napoleon Bonaparte to investigate. He recognizes that the murder weapon was a boomerang and goes on to describe four different kinds. He can tell from the wound which was was used and therefore which end of the continent the killer is from.

That's all well and good but there's little else good to say. The rest of this book is a hot racist mess. Even with the detective being half aborigine the third person omniscient narrator frames everyone's actions and thoughts against their race.

The ultimate motive has a rather Shadow over Innsmouth feel to it. The murder a diehard racist white dude is rudely shaken to learn that he is actually in the same situation as the detective. But he had a white mother and fair enough skin to pass. Faced with the true identity of his father, he's driven mad and driven to murder.

The second book in the series is The Sands of Windee (1931). I'm still debating whether I want to give a second book a try.

Two stars

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