29 November 2010

Review: BEAT NOT THE BONES, Charlotte Jay

first published 1952
edition I read SOHO PRESS 1995
ISBN 1-56947-047-2
219 pages
Winner of the First Edgar Award for Best Novel 1954
source: borrowed
Also available through Wakefield Press in the Wakefield Crime Classics.
Two other Charlotte Jay titles:
A Hank of Hair
Arms for Adonis

Once Stella Warwick was meant to come to Marapai in Papua New Guinea as a young Australian bride. Now, a little over 6 months later, she comes to find out who murdered her husband.

Although her husband, a distinguished anthropologist in charge of protecting the natives from exploitation, was over 20 years older than her, and in reality she barely knew him, Stella feels that the verdict of suicide after David's death is really out of character.

David Warwick died over 3 days walk into the jungle away, and as Stella attempts to visit there, she becomes aware that everyone is telling her lies. Nobody wants her to uncover the truth.

The novel is as much about how the officials of the Australian protectorate and handling cultural and climatic differences, as it is about whether David Warwick was murdered or whether he committed suicide. The story is played out against the background of interaction and conflict between a supposedly primitive culture and Australian civilisation.

Charlotte Jay lived and worked in Papua New Guinea 1942-1950 and obviously placed BEAT NOT THE BONES in a setting with which she was very familiar. This was her second mystery novel and Anthony Boucher commented on "its deft plot".

BEAT NOT THE BONES gives the reader plenty to think about. I read it for my final Australasian crime fiction title in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge.

My rating: 4.5

Other references and reviews to check
Charlotte Jay was the pseudonym adopted by Australian mystery writer and novelist, Geraldine Halls (17 December 1919 - 27 October 1996).

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - Thanks for this review. You know, I know embarrassingly little about this place and time in history. I'm going to try to hunt this one down just to rectify that. It sounds really interesting....

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