Page count: 406 pages
Truth is the latest novel by the acclaimed Australian crime writer Peter Temple. It follows Inspector Stephen Villani, head of the Victoria homicide squad, a minor character introduced in The broken shore through a spate of murders in the gruelling heat of the Australian summer. A prostitute is found in a brand new luxury condominium with her neck broken; yet rather than cooperate with the investigations, the building’s owners use their connections with the high and mighty to close the case early lest the sale of the new appartments be affected. Elsewhere in Victoria, the bodies of three drug dealers are found mutilated in an apparent gang-related attack turned ugly. Again Villani finds himself under pressure to close the case to preserve the image of a secure city ahead of the autumn’s elections.
Villani himself is the sheer definition of an anti-hero: his marriage is a shambles following his multiple indiscretions; his youngest daughter is drugging herself, living on the street and accusing Villani of incest; and his domineering father leaves Villani feeling a continuously inadequate and weak son. Consequently, work is the only arena left for Villani to excel in; yet, here too, he is portrayed as deeply flawed as Villani some years back helped a colleague disguise the shooting of an unarmed suspect as an act of self-defence.
Truth is a great book: fast paced, compulsively readable, written with a lot of style and flair, I breezed through it in less than a day, which is unusually fast for me. Having read The broken shore a few months ago, I really enjoyed how Temple expanded the universe of characters of that book in this latest volume, adding even more nuances and enhancing the reader’s insight into the background of the cast of both books. Combined with Temple’s superb language and dark storyline, the result is a novel of far higher literary quality than is common for crime writers. Well worth the read!
The broken shore is a standalone crime novel by Peter Temple. It is set in Port Monroe, a small village somewhere in Australia. Joe Cashin is a homicide cop who has transferred from Melbourne to Port Monroe to recover both physically and mentally after a case in which his partner was murdered and Cashin himself was brutally attacked and nearly killed, too. After the many ugly cases Cashin investigated in the city, Port Monroe is a walk in the park where the worst that can happen is a few traffic incidents and having to chase the odd vagrant when the neighbours start complaining.
This peace is interrupted, however, when the town’s great benefactor, Mr Bourgoyne, is found tortured in his own home and later dies of the injuries in the hospital. Despite Bourgoyne’s wealth, nothing has been taken from the crime scene except an exclusive Breitling watch. The watch is later traced to a pawnshop in Sydney where it was submitted by three Aboriginal teenagers from Port Monroe. The police’s attempt to apprehend the three youths goes badly wrong, ending in a car chase that leaves two of them dead and the third in hospital. Racial tensions in Port Monroe surge as a result, and a political fight in the media ensues. When the third teenager later commits suicide, the Bourgoyne murder is assumed solved and Cashin is told to close the case. Cashin thinks the youths may have been framed, however, and decides to dig deeper on his own…
The broken shore was a Christmas present, and is the first novel I have read by Peter Temple. I therefore had no expectations whatsoever, but I can honestly say that it has been years since I read a crime novel this good. Despite taking a few chapters to get used to the Aussie slang, I was instantly hooked and tore through the book in less than two days. I therefore agree wholeheartedly with the reviewer from The Independent on Sunday quoted in the blurb at the back of the book: read one page of this book and I challenge you not to finish it! Congratulations Peter Temple, you just made it to the top of my most wanted crime novel list!