The Broken Shore, Peter Temple

The Broken Shore is my first foray into detective fiction. Our book group selected it from the CWA (Crime Writers Association) Dagger winners from a couple of years back, so it came with a reasonable pedigree. The book blurb is also more than complementary, verging on the hyperbole at times as it decries the book as not just a great Australian crime novel but as one of the great Australian novels full stop.

Well it’s enjoyable but its certainly not the greatest thing since the invention of things. Temple has a very engaging writing style, he deals with the spoken word as it is spoken, which is rather uncommon in literature. The detectives and police in general speak in short clipped terms, whilst everyone else is a little more loquacious. It takes some getting used to but works well.

Try as I might however, I can’t hear the voices with an Aussie accent. I’ve spent 6 weeks in the country, so its not a lack of exposure to it. I suppose its the way that the back water hick town most of the novel takes part in are just like the back water hick towns in the deep south of America.

The plot itself centres around a detective called Joe Cashin (although in the great tradition of detective novels, he’s referred to as Cashin by pretty much everyone bar his mum), who has headed back to the small town he grew up in to lick the wounds of a serious accident he was involved in and recover. Then the equilibrium of quiet racism and rural crime is disrupted by the murder of a local bigwig.

Characters are set up as the perpetrators but its fairly evident they’re not to blame and things move on at pace from here. And it’s this that really proves the issue to be honest. The murderers only appear in the last 50 or so pages, basically at the reveal, so there’s no link to them other than the odd mention for the main bulk of the novel. This feels unsatisfactory when you finally get to meet them.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book enough that I’m going to dig out some of Temple’s other work. Particularly any other Cashin books he’s written, as I found the whole thing rather engaging.

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