My sixth Aussie author for the year is Peter Temple and his book The Broken Shore. A crime novel that is far more than a police procedural, and written in a style that marks it as something beyond the usual gritty murder read, it was a wonderful book to read.
Vivid imagery, wry humour and a realism that doesn’t shrink from the ugliness of crime and corruption, take us from the murder of an old man to the exposure of a terrible crime. The hero is a city cop sent back to his home town to recover from a near fatal attack, who guides us unflinchingly through a place full of damaged people, racism and his own fractured past.
This is an Australian story. It gives us the gang-land crime, police corruption, race relations and indigenous social dislocation that have filled the news headlines in the past 15 years, and yet this is presented through a fictional version of history.
For me the best thing about this book is the characterisation. It is full of acute observations that are used to build very real people. The dialogue ripples with sarcasm, humour and anger in a way I’ve rarely seen achieved on the page.
If I have a criticism of this book it is that it adheres to the ‘convenience’ factor in resolving the plot. People and facts fall into the right places like carefully placed dominos and it saps some of the drama in the closing scenes. The final chapter also feels awkward and is undoubtably only there to facilitate the sequel, which I thought an odd choice for such a tightly crafted piece.
A recommended read.