Book Review – The New Shoe – Arthur W Upfield

Posted on Wed 04/13/2011 by


THE NEW SHOE (Also published under the title THE CLUE OF THE NEW SHOE)

First published – (U.S.) Doubleday – 1951

Second Publisher – (UK) Heinemann – 1952

Third Publisher – (UK) Pan Books (In association with Heinemann) – 1955

This Edition – Pan Books – Sixth Printing – 1978

This novel is set in the State of Victoria, around a lighthouse on the south western coastline near Lorne.

Bony works closely with Superintendent Bolt, with a passing, and only slight mention of DI Snook, someone Bony cannot work with.

Bony is again working undercover, and he uses the alias of Rawlings, and he is supposedly on holidays from his farm of 100,000 acres, where he runs Corriedale sheep, on the Balranald road, just out from Swan Hill.

This novel mentions the end of the war, and as the publishing date is 1951, this would relate to World War Two as the conflict in Korea was still an ongoing thing at the time Upfield would have written this novel. The younger characters in the book are returned soldiers from that war.

Again, Bony furthers the career of the local policeman, Senior Constable Staley.

During the course of the investigation, Bony travels to Melbourne, Geelong, Colac, Adelaide, and Sydney, much more travelling than in any of his earlier novels.

There is no mention of any other case, save a mention of swordfish angling, and a record he holds for catching one at Bermagui.

This turns out to be a very difficult investigation, and hangs on an edge until the last few pages. Bony also employs current forensic investigation procedures into this case, and blends all of this into a tale of a slice of life in this local area, once again described in great detail, using this to further enhance the setting.

There is clever use of a cave in this story. The now grown adults who are central to the case still use the cave in a waterfront cliff face to this day, having used this same cave when they were children, playing at pirates and smugglers.

Some vital evidence is found by Bony in this cave, and there is a descriptive scene of his escaping from the cave, scrambling back up the cliff face in a raging storm, and a strong allusion to his being hit on the head just as he reaches the summit.

One of the main characters, who was evidently a bit of a hero in the war now fells timber on the far side of a valley, and there is a descriptive passage where Bony joins with two of the men to trek over to see this fellow with supplies. The truck journey is carried out in what seems to be an old wartime truck, which I would tend to believe as being an old Ford Blitz, with the crash gearbox. The trip over and back is fraught with danger, as they have to cross a section of road that has been carved out of the side of a cliff. There are no guard rails as we know them, and at any time it looks like the truck will crash down the steep mountain, and they will all be killed. The odd thing is that Bony seems to be the only one who seems in any way concerned.

Upfield the author also shows us a knowledge of the different types of Australian timber.

This knowledge comes in handy when Bony finds that one of the older local residents constructs coffins, and Bony has many long discussions with this old man, talking of the values of differing species of trees, and the way the wood can be used in the construction of the coffins. The old man crafts the coffins to the exact fit of the ‘client’, and looks upon each coffin as a long term sleeping place that should be as comfortable as possible.

This is another of those occasions where Upfield again weaves an older resident into the plot of the novel. This old man, the salt of the earth, measures Bony for a custom built coffin, made from the most beautiful wood, imported from the same area that Bony is ostensibly using as cover for his alias identity.

The old man and Bony become firm friends and spend a lot of time talking, Bony aware that this old man knows all there is to know about the district and the people who inhabit it. This old man is caught between a rock and a hard place towards the end of the novel, and Bony is sympathetic to his plight, making the old man feel a lot less foolish than he actually does when the plot culmination is reached.
This is another example of not only a well written story, but a ripping good yarn as well.