I’m back! With more enthusiasm, more opinions and more books than ever! Why now? I hear you ask. Well a number of reasons, one of which is that it’s getting to my favourite time of year – best books of 2014, but for the moment I’m back to tell you about how amazing Peter Temple is.
My mum and brother are both long-term fans (I share both their genes and their literary taste) so when my supervisor at my internship kept mentioning him (like A LOT) I thought it was time to give this Australian crime thing a go…
I started The Broken Shore about a week ago and finished it in a couple of days. I would have finished it even more quickly if I wasn’t also meant to be finishing up my uni assessment. Temple’s writing is sparse, evocative, full of punch and character. I don’t really know how to describe it so here are the first two lines of The Broken Shore:
Cashin walked around the hill, into the wind from the sea. It was cold, late autumn, last glowing leaves clinging to the liquidambars and maples his great-grandfather’s brother had planted, their surrender close. He loved this time, the morning stillness, loved it more than spring.
I don’t want to say too much about these books because part of what I enjoyed so much was not knowing where they were going. Not just that I didn’t know what was going to happen next but rather I never knew which strands were going to be important and how it would all come together. But anyway The Broken Shore is about Joe Cashin, a homicide detective stationed in a small town who gets caught up in local rifts as an elderly community leader is found beaten to death and then two young aboriginal men are killed during an attempted arrest. Truth is about the head of homicide, Stephen Villani, unravelling the death of a young woman in a fancy apartment complex and the revenge killings of a few gang members while trying to negotiate police loyalties and state politics.
I don’t read a whole lot of crime but I did get a chance to read a bit more while interning in commercial fiction. And for me, The Broken Shore and Truth completely redefined what crime could be. They are just as literary and beautiful as the best literary fiction, they’re dark and often gruesome without being excessive or even particularly graphic. There are no heroes or anti-heroes or even overly earnest Heroes-with-Flaws. There are just people. (Especially in Truth.) The plot and characters are often convoluted and yet one of the cleverest things is that even though I felt confused a lot of the time, there was just enough information dispensed for the end to come together in an incredibly neat and satisfying way.
But apart from being accomplished and clever and genre bending, these books were incredibly gripping. I couldn’t wait to get back to each of them and I’m pretty sure I’ll be rereading them in the near future.