Wednesday, May 23, 2007

PETER TEMPLE'S AUSTRALIA

Some while ago I read a review of The Death of Dalziel by Jake Kerridge in which he said that "having to read another crime novel about terrorists makes me feel like Dalziel when confronted by a salad."

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.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Maxine said...

As ever, a very thoughtful and individualistic review, Norm/Uriah. I have Broken Shore on my unread pile. In light of what you write, I really must move it up the list a bit. It is hard -- I just received some very tempting books from Karen, as well as all those Camilleris to read. BTW I have persuaded Malcolm (the Professor) to read The Shape of Water and he is enjoying it so far, he being an Italianophile.

Dulwich village connection interesting. It is a sort of island, isn't it? Before we moved to Kingston, Malcolm lived in Peckham, so Dulwich was quite a regular destination for us in the 19**s too. Friends of ours have moved there too, so we do occasionally go to the picture gallery, the rare times (almost vanishingly so) when we go out. Looking forward to reading more! (I think I've got this book on aformentioned pile, also.)

1:42 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

I think Peter Temple has won five Ned Kelly awards. I also liked The Broken Shore's fresh and sensitive handling of issues that might have seemed cliched in lesser hands.
===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

11:17 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Maxine, the main character in The Death List has an ex wife who lives in a house overlooking Ruskin Park. I used to live in Ruskin Park House, and this is taking the theme of exotic locations for crime novels to a new level.
In my Dulwich days, when the US President knew something about waging war[yes I am that old], the village was indeed an island of wealth and prosperity among a sea of the struggling.
Now with organic butchers and French bistros in East Dulwich the entire area seems to have become gentrified. There were no Professors in Peckham in my day, and Del Boy's Reliant Robin would have been the top notch transport around.

Peter, thanks for the info on the Ned Kellys, "fresh and sensitive handling" is one attribute of Australians I must have overlooked.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Well, "fresh and sensitive handling" was my way of avoiding plot spoilers, but if you insist: "------ who ---- -------- -------- and then -------- after the ----------."
===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

7:17 PM  

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