Sunday, February 3, 2008

A taste for crime

I've never really considered myself a great fan of the crime genre. And maybe I'm still not. But I'm definitely a fan of Australian crime writer Peter Temple.

Temple has been writing tightly-crafted crime novels since 1995, stunning critics, winning fans, and bagging four Ned Kelly Awards (more than any other writer) and a Vogel Award, among others.

I discovered him recently when I read his latest release, The Broken Shore (another recommendation from the ABC's First Tuesday Book Club), which could just as easily sit on the literary fiction shelf.

The story features Joe Cashin, a former homicide detective, still recovering from severe injuries incurred in a botched Melbourne stake-out. Sent home to run the small police station in Port Monro on the Victorian coast, he expects a quiet life.

Then rich Charles Bourgoyne, the local benefactor, is bashed and everything seems to point to three boys from the nearby Aboriginal community. Cashin is unconvinced and as tragedy unfolds relentlessly into tragedy, he finds himself holding onto something that might be better let go.

Temple's grasp of voice and place is mesmerising, his characters are Australian without being stereotypical, and he creates pervasive, slow building suspense.

It turns out these are Temple's trademarks. While on holidays, I also read Dead Point, part of Temple's series featuring world weary lawyer Jack Irish. I devoured this novel even quick than the other. I particularly liked that the narrative is first person, and Jack is a complex character whose morality is clear, even if the company he keeps is often murky.

Temple's writing has its own rhythm to it. His humour is dry, his violence graphic, and his physical descriptions wryly amusing.

The basis of his novels are crimes that eventually will be solved, or resolved, one way or another, but what you find yourself more interested in are his characters, the choices they make, and the seedy worlds they often inhabit, or must venture into.
As the Sun Herald said, Temple is not just one of Australia's best crime novelists, "he's one of our best novelists full stop.

Anyone else a fan?


the ink-stained toe-poker said...

This sounds like an interesting book. I'm no really into crime fiction. I once started reading a pat cornwell book but about 50 pages in I got the boak. I was choking on it.
Ian Rankin numbers are the same, Rebus does ma nut in.
I need to read more Australian books and while I'm psyching myself to tackle AB Facey, Mr Temple's work might just do the job.
Thank you.

Paula Weston said...

Hey poker,

I do think Temple is much more your style (of course, I could be wrong too - our tastes do part company on many occasions...)

I read a few Cornwells back in the 90s when the first few Scarpetta novels came out, and enjoyed for what they were: fast-paced thrillers (this was in the days before TV was awash with forensic babble, so the medical detail was somewhat novel at the time).

But I tried to read something new of hers a few years back and found the love had gone... Seems my tastes have moved on.

Anyway, have a crack at a Peter Temple and let me know what you think.