Book Review – The Mountains Have A Secret – Arthur W Upfield

Posted on Tue 03/29/2011 by



First published – (U.S.) Doubleday – 1948

Second Publisher – (UK) Heinemann – 1952

Third Publisher – (UK) Pan Books – 1954 (in association with Heinemann)

This novel was also serialised in Detective Fiction magazine Volume 1 Number 1 onwards in Australia by Frank Johnson (Sydney).

This Edition – Pan Books – 6th Printing – 1978

This novel is set in the Grampians district of Victoria. The Grampians are a mountain range in central Western Victoria.

Bony has again been seconded to the Victoria Police Force, working under Superintendent Bolt.

As usual, the area is described in great detail, Upfield again effectively using an evocatively described Australian setting, and then painting a picture of the areas inherent beauty.

Bony sets out alone through the district towards the culmination of the novel, and Upfield uses the explicitly described terrain to enhance the setting that he then places Bony in.

Bony is again working incognito, this time taking the persona of a sheep farmer, Jim Parkes, from Balranald, supposedly on a holiday. Upfield mentions in the text that Bony has used this persona previously, but it has not been in any of the novels that pre date this one.

Bony strikes up a friendship with the old father of the proprietor, who seems quite scared of his son for some reason or other, and Bony uses this friendship to gain insight into the investigation.

There is a slight derogatory mention of Snook, but there are no references to other cases.

As is usually the case Bony furthers the career of the local police Inspector, Mulligan in the course of this investigation into the disappearance of two girls and the further disappearance and possible murder of a man who was previously employed as the yard man at the guest house where Bony is staying.

Bony is assaulted by three men who have ostensibly turned up out of the blue, but in actual fact have been sent for by the proprietor, who has used his connections to find out if Bony is really just who he says he is.

Bony is saved from being beaten to death when the Licensing Branch turn up to turn the place over, figuratively speaking, when in point of actual fact, they were sent by Bolt to keep an eye on Bony.

As it turns out, there is a strong reference to a relationship between a local farmer, who is very wealthy, and runs a property that is secure as Fort Knox. This wealthy farmer has organised a group of people into a cult, and these people are sympathetic to the ideals of Adolf Hitler. This group of people are trying to revive the German Reich, and this again is a case of Upfield using something topical at the time of writing, as this novel closely follows the end of the Second World War.

There is an American, an ex serviceman who is working at the guest house, again a case of Upfield inserting an American character now that his novels are being well read in the U.S. and also being published there by Doubledays.t was American servicemen on recreation leave from the theatres of War where they were operational who picked up Upfield’s novels and then returned with them to the U.S. and this is what started the large following Upfield had in the U.S.

This American character is also investigating the disappearance of the girls, albeit as a private citizen. He is engaged to one of the missing girls, having met her during the war. He assists Bony towards the end of the story.

The culmination of the story finds Bony having infiltrated this cult group and at the farm of the wealthy leader. He is gazing on a body, this body supposedly being someone who the rest of the world believes to have suffered a completely different death, a possible, and quite vague reference to the body possibly being that of Hitler himself. The coffin is then removed from the secure farm and flown off to Portland, on the Coast to the South, where it is placed on a boat, and we never find out just who the body was.

The girls are discovered, both safe and well, and during the capture of the principals, there is a raging gun battle, during which Bony is shot three times and is severely wounded, recovering at a much later date in hospital.

This is one of the very few cases in any of Upfield’s novels where the actual use of guns has a mention, and one of only a few instances where Bony actually is in some form of gun fight.

During the narrative, there is also a reference to an actual case at or around that time. This was the Pyjama Girl case, still to this day and unsolved Mystery.

This is another of Upfield’s novels that is so evocative in its description of the area, the methods he uses and the people he associates with.