• The Barrakee Mystery

  • An Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte Mystery, Book 1
  • By: Arthur W. Upfield
  • Narrated by: Peter Hosking
  • Length: 8 hrs and 16 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (130 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Why was the redoubtable King Henry, an aborigine from Western Australia, killed during a thunderstorm in New South Wales? What was the feud that led to murder after nineteen long years had passed? And who was the woman who saw the murder and kept silent?

This first story of Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, the half-aborigine detective, takes him to a sheep station in the Darling River bush country where he encounters those problems he understands so well... mixed blood and divided loyalties.

PLEASE 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. These books reflect and depict the attitudes and ways of speech of that era particularly with regard to Aborigines and to women. In reproducing this book the publisher does not endorse the attitudes or opinions they express.

©1965 First published 1929 by Hutchinson and Company Ltd. © Bonaparte Holdings Pty Ltd, 1965. (P)2015 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Napoleon Bonaparte, my best detective." ( The Daily Express)

What listeners say about The Barrakee Mystery

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Story from another time....

I'd read other books from Arthur Upfield with Bony, the detective, and I hesitated before buying an Audble version until I saw who was reading/performing the story. I love Peter Hosking and was not disappointed. The stories are from a time when Australia was truly a wild frontier and the half-aboriginal detective is such an unusual character. The later stories keep giving more details of his skills and eccentricities. I can't wait for my next purchase. Truly stories you sit in the car listening for an acceptable point to turn off the story.....

6 people found this helpful

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Don't judge Bony by this first book!

The "Bony" novels have two principal characters. The first is Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (aka "Bony"), the brilliant half-Aboriginal detective who is equally at home discussing philosophy or reading the "book of the bush" while tracking a killer through the harsh outback.
The second is the character of rural Australia. British author Arthur Upfield, spending many years in Australia, set out to dramatize the country and its unique characters and characteristics for readers around the world.
In most of his novels, (and I've read or listened to virtually all of them,) Bony occupies center stage, and this fascinating character, who inspired Tony Hillerman and other later mystery writers, is, like most great serial fictional detectives, both interesting and enjoyable to spend time with. The characteristics of rural Australia are always displayed well, also, and give non-Australians a wonderful picture of life there in the early to mid 20th century.
In this first novel, though, Upfield spends way too much time on local color, so even a died-in-the-wool fan like me might need to speed up the audio book to 1.5X to get through long descriptive passages.
So, as my headline said, don't judge the whole series by this book. If you get bored, just go on to book two...you have a long and wonderful series of stories ahead of you, and, in Peter Hosking, you have a fantastic narrator to guide you along.
Also, this is a series in which it is not hugely important to listen to the stories in the order in which they were published. While there are occasional references to earlier tales, they don't really infringe or spoil on the tale at hand.
So say "D'dye" to Bony, and start on a long and wonderful series of adventures!

4 people found this helpful

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Dated and racist but still poetic.

This book is hard to listen to because it is amazingly racist but yet the descriptions are wonderful and parts of the story are very exciting. The mystery is easy to figure out. Not sure if everyone will like it. The narrator is wonderful. The publisher has put a disclaimer on it because of the racist and sexist language. It is a classic but I feel very ambivalent about recommending it.

4 people found this helpful

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First in Excellent Series

Narration: Perfect, clear, interesting, authentic Aussie inflection.

Story: Excellent foundation for excellent series. Written in 1928 or earlier, dialogue is replete with sexist and racist language and ideas, but dealt with in an historically accurate manner, actually sympathetic to Aboriginees--as compared with American sentiment at the time--, and which does not detract from complex story raising questions about ethnicity, race, and gender relations.
I do not encourage listening to this audio before others in the series, as the racism may put off the listener from enjoying subsequent compelling, much less objectionable audiobooks.

2 people found this helpful

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First far from best

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Enjoyed the book, but I was disappointed that the key character took such a small part in it. The book centers much more on the squatter's family and affairs than with the mystery. There isn't much mystery at that.

Have you listened to any of Peter Hosking’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I love Peter Hosking's readings.

2 people found this helpful

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Hard to Read/Listen To Despite Publisher Warning

While I understand that Upfield's books reflect the attitudes and policies in Australia during the period he was writing, I had a difficult time finishing this book.I think the fact that the author seemed to be accepting of the attitudes toward Aborigines, including the feeling that it was okay to kill a black man, was so off putting it made me cringe.

2 people found this helpful

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The first in a brilliantly written series

Anyone interested in the human condition, history & or a good story should read the Bony series.

1 person found this helpful

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Start with The Sands of Windee

The Napoleon Bonaparte mysteries are a hidden gem, particularly the first dozen or so. Per advice from other reviewers, I started the series with book #2, The Sands of Windee. Came back much later to The Barrakee Mystery, and while it is entertaining, and in parts compelling, Bony plays a minor tile in the story. Come back to it later as I did if you care to, but jump into the series at book 2 where the story centers on Bony and Aboriginal culture as the primary focus.

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Casual racism imbues the book

A good story but ruined by the racism directed at aboriginal people. The assumptions made about their abilities and predilections were widely made at the time the story was written, but utterly jarring now. Not enough to save a decent plot. This book was recommended to me by someone who knew I liked Tony Hillerman's books featuring a Navajo policeman. They are not a good comparison though. Hillerman tried very hard to get it right and his books display a respect for the dignity of the Navajo people and for their culture.

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couldn't get into it.

The reader didn't speak clearly. Not interesting. I didn't like it but some might.

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  • Abx
  • 04-24-21

brilliant Bony

As always Mr. Upfield delivers a Brilliant detective Inspector Bonerpart mystery with the wonderful backdrop of true Australia

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  • Nile_Etland
  • 02-28-19

A fairly good story spoilt by racist attitude

Like all the D.I. Bonaparte books I've read so far the plot is good and D.I. Bonaparte is a sympathetic character. However the appallingly racist attitudes portrayed in this novel - however common and acceptable they were at the time - made listening to the book a very uncomfortable experience.
I played fair and listened to the end - Peter Hoskins is a very good reader - but I would never want to hear it again.

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  • Helen V
  • 01-29-15

Enchanting word pictures

Upfield's descriptions of the western districts are so vivid they take you right there.Brilliant. Not very PC but good yarn.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Greenspider
  • 11-27-20

Great book to remenisce time living on the Darling

It is years since I read any of Arthur Upton's books. I will be rereading his collection. thoroughly enjoyed going back to the bush where I spent my youth

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  • P Hensley
  • 11-17-20

Brilliantly written

The writing of this story gives an insight to life in the outback of Australia in the early 1900's, it also displays the depth of experience of the author in both the physical and metaphysical aspects of the Australian Bush.