I faced Peter Temple's The Broken Shore with some trepidation here was yet another lonely disturbed traumatised detective sent to his sleepy home town to recuperate, and surprise surprise there is a murder. I felt more like Brunetti discovering that Paola has gone on a lecture tour and not left him any food.
I had studiously avoided reading any of the reviews and numerous online discussions concerning The Broken Shore, because I wanted to make up my own mind. Well this book is good, very good and the writing has a realistic honesty.
But what I really liked was that too many crime novels start with a bang and then fade away to a whimper, not with this book.
The Broken Shore has the pace and atmosphere of a real investigation, and the second half of the book is even better than the first.
Homicide detective Joe Cashin has returned to his home town Port Monro to recover both physically and mentally from a disastrous case in which a young colleague was killed, and he was badly injured. When local philanthropist Charles Bourgoyne is battered to death in his home Cashin is given charge of the case. Bourgoyne's watch is traced to three Aboriginal youths from the settlement at Daunt and an attempt is made to arrest the boys before they reach their homes. Cashin and Dove, an Aboriginal cop, are delayed, and in the resulting shoot out two of the boys are killed by cops under the direction of Hopgood. When Donny Coulter the third boy is killed during a stake out the case seems closed, but the political ramifications disgust Cashin. But in this case all is not as it seems, and as more facts are revealed Cashin believes the boys are innocent, and that this is not a simple robbery killing but something far more terrible.
As well as Joe Cashin there are other interesting characters in the book among them Dave Rebb, a mysterious swaggie, and of course a beautiful lawyer Helen Castelman.
"Old school mates," said Dove. "Lucky you."
"She was too good for me," said Cashin. "Old Cromarty money. Her father was a doctor...."
And also there is Hopgood. Hopgood and some other characters in the novel express racist and bigoted opinions that are a bit of a shock. Perhaps Peter Temple, who was born in South Africa is able to view Australian society with a clearer eye than those who have lived there all their lives.
"Jesus,not enough coons here," said Hopgood. "We have to import another black bastard."
"....Poofs, mate. Detective Poof and his swaggie bumchum."
"Takin out those two Daunt coons. Pity it wasn't a whole fuckin busload."
You only have to watch a few minutes of Australian Rules Football, or Australian Rugby League, to realise that it is a tough hard uncompromising country. This is a tough uncompromising book and some readers will probably be surprised at Australia's treatment and attitude to its indigenous population. This is no politically correct treatise, but a harsh story of evil which is difficult to push out of one's mind.
I hope to read more of the four time Ned Kelly winner Peter Temple's novels.
Next on my reading list is The Death List by Paul Johnston. I see from the early pages that the leading character take his daughter to school in Dulwich Village. I frequently walked to school through Dulwich Village, back in the 19**s, so I feel I must postpone my next Montalbano to read this.