Friday, September 13, 2013

The Broken Shore: Peter Temple

A mystery magazine that I read, Deadly Pleasures, has a feature each issue called "Reviewed to Death." They pick a title and six to eight reviewers all read and review that book. It is interesting to see different takes on the book, but sometimes the reviews get repetitive. I think, over the years, that The Broken Shore has been reviewed to death (online, not in the magazine). I don't think I can add much to the praise that has been heaped upon it.

Homicide detective Joe Cashin was part of an operation gone wrong, and he was badly injured and traumatized. A co-worker died as a result. He has been reassigned to the quiet, relatively crime free, town of Port Monro, where he spends a lot of time thinking about the past, both related to work and his family. Port Monro is his home town and he ends up getting reacquainted with old friends and family.

An overview from a  review at the Washington Post, from 2007.
There is, in fact, a great deal of action ahead -- murder, rape, suicide, child abuse, police brutality, shootouts -- but always in the context of gorgeous writing. The novel is in fact an exceptional blending of first-rate crime fiction and a literary sensibility. This does not come entirely as a surprise. Temple isn't well known in this country, but in Australia, where he lives, "The Broken Shore" has already won the Ned Kelly Award for crime fiction, as did four of his previous novels.
The Crime Writer's Association awarded this book the 2007 Duncan Lawrie Dagger for best crime novel of the year.

The strengths of this book are its depiction of rural areas in Australia and the inhumane treatment of the aboriginal population there.  The depth of hatred and bigotry that some of the townspeople exhibit is very unpleasant and conveyed very convincingly.  Also Temple develops very interesting characters.

The drawbacks, for me, were that the story of Joe Cashin and the surrounding crime investigation did not grab me, pull me into the book. I enjoyed reading the book and I got a lot out of it, but it wasn't a spectacular experience like it was for many others.

A small point, but Cashin has two large poodles, and his relationship with them does a lot to reveal his character (in a good way).

Also reviewed at these blogs:


I do plan to read more books by Peter Temple. This was my first, and I want to read the book that follows and features Inspector Stephen Villani, who was in The Broken Shore, but not a main character. I also want to try the Jack Irish series.

12 comments:

  1. Oh yes this is a highly praised book and I own it along with several others by him. I think I will start with another title when I get to his books. Thanks for your review as it has been helpful to me in what to expect when I get to it.

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    1. Temple is a good author and Australia is interesting to read about. I will see what I think of his other books.

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  2. TracyK: I have read two of Temple's books (An Iron Rose and Bad Debts). I found myself about the same place as yourself. I enjoyed the books but did not find them great. I try not to get too hyped up about a book from recommendations and reviews because I do not want my expectations to govern my reaction to a book. Sigh. I wish I could avoid expectations complicate reading but one's own mind is hard to govern.

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    1. I agree with what you say here, Bill. I did feel like my expectations of the book hindered my reading experience. And, like you, I wish I could stop having expectations when I am reading books. Haven't been successful with that yet.

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  3. Tracy, I can at best read one or two reviews of the same book but six to eight would be a tad too much for me. I have heard of Peter Temple and I am thankful to you for putting me wise to his work. It is a pity I can't read every new author.

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    1. Prashant, I also wish I could find the time to read all the interesting authors I read about. I just found out that I have a copy of The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean and I am excited about that one.

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  4. Tracy - Thanks as ever for your candid review. I agree with you that Temple develops his characters very effectively. I'm sorry to hear the investigation didn't draw you in though. I have to confess I was more drawn in than you were, but that's individual taste for you.

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    1. Margot, I do remember that you like this book a lot. Like you said, different tastes. Although I found much good in it.

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  5. I have heard a lot about this book, and keep wondering if I should read it - now I'm still not sure! but a helpful review all the same. I read Guns of Navarone years ago and loved it, hope you do too.

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    1. Moira, I think it is worth reading, for the picture of Australia if nothing else. I enjoyed reading it, but I kept waiting to get excited about it. Expectations too high, I guess. Glad to hear you liked Guns of Navarone.

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  6. Another author I need to get back to, though I don't know when. I've read a few by him and what I have read I've enjoyed, though my exact reaction to this eludes me as it was before I started making notes on my reading.

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    1. Col, I will read more books by Temple, I am sure, but I have a lot of authors I want to read more of... so I don't know when. Definitely want to try the Jack Irish books.

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