The Broken Shore by Peter Temple (Australian literary crime fiction)

The Broken Shore is the precursor to Truth, the first crime novel to win the Miles Franklin Award, and so I was excited to be finally reading it. This is, however, the second Peter Temple book that I have read (An Iron Rose being the first), and whilst I very much enjoyed The Broken Shore, it was very reminiscent of An Iron Rose in terms of the characters, the setting and the plot.

The main character of this book is Joe Cashin, an ex-homicide detective who becomes involved in the investigation of the death of Charles Burgoyne, a local man of large wealth. His death is blamed on some young Aboriginals from the town, but Joe soon discovers that there is something more sinister behind the killing of Charles Burgoyne and the killings that follow.

The same comments that I made about An Iron Rose equally apply to this book. Temple's writing is very spare and gritty. He writes in the hardboiled style made famous by Hammett and Chandler. In fact, the main character in The Broken Shore, Joe Cashin, was very Marlow-esque. He was a complicated character. He had the hardness of an ex-homicide police officer, but was clearly enjoying being in a role where he could exercise his discretion and common sense without all the action.

Temple is skilled at capturing detail despite his spare writing style, and is able to effectively use dialogue to give the story and setting a distinctly Australian setting.

The good thing about The Broken Shore is that not only was he able to capture detail so well but he also covered many important political issues such as crime and justice, police corruption, Aboriginal politics, environmental protection and institutionalised sexual abuse.

I enjoyed The Broken Shore, although it moved very slowly and was worryingly similar to An Iron Rose, from my perspective anyway. I am now looking forward to reading Truth and seeing how it is distinct from these novels.

6 / 8 stars: Enjoyable and well-written. I would recommend it.

Do you ever feel a little bit worried when you read a book that is very similar to other books the author has written? If this were your ordinary crime fiction it perhaps wouldn't bother me, but Temple's writing can just as equally be considered literary fiction as it can crime, I think that I expect something a bit more original from a writer of literary fiction. What do you think? Have you read any more of Temple's writing than me and have a better idea of the distinctions between each of his novels?


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