This author had been recommended to me by a customer at my bookshop a few months back, but I only recently got around to reading a book by him. What I usually do, if I think I’ll like the book, is add it to my ever-growing “I’ll get around to reading this soon” pile. At this point I have dozens, perhaps over a hundred, books in that particular pile, one which is becoming more of a small hill. At some point, I eventually do get around to reading the stuff I’ve stashed away, which is what happened with The Broken Shore by Peter Temple. This is the first book I’ve read by Temple, an Australian mystery writer, but it certainly won’t be the last. I was very impressed with this novel.
Just reading the blurbs and reviews on the back cover of The Broken Shore, you can’t help but feel that this is going to be a gripping read. Australian Graeme Blundell said that it “might be the best crime novel published in this country.” Michael Robotham called it “simply a brilliant book in any genre.” Mark Billingham wrote that Temple is “one of the world’s best crime writers.” Another fellow crime writer, John Harvey labeled Temple “a master, and The Broken Shore is a masterful book. A review in the Washington Post said: “Peter Temple can write, can make magic with words … The Broken Shore offers both poetry and gore, and it’s best if you have a taste for both.” Yet another review in the Sydney Morning Herald raved: “It’s hard to know where to start praising this book. Plot, style, setting, and characters are all startling good, and even lovers of crime fiction will recognize that Temple has taken his writing beyond the usual boundaries.”
I certainly agree with all of the above praise. Temple is not only a good story teller, but a damn fine writer. He reminds me a bit of James Lee Burke in the sense that his prose is so descriptive and atmospheric, that at times you forget you are reading a mystery novel. Besides being an excellent writer, Temple has a genuine flair for creating crisp, believable dialogue. There is a mind-numbing barrage of Aussie slang used throughout the book, and that’s sometimes difficult for my “Yank” ears to fully comprehend. But such slang is to be expected in a book set in Australia, and in the end it’s also one of the things that make this novel so engaging. The only criticism I could lay on this particular novel is that the main mystery element of the book end ups falling too much into stereotypical and clichéd territory (the evil child molester is tracked down by an abused child many years later) without offering anything new or surprising to the dynamic.
Temple has written about a half-dozen other books, including “In the Evil Day” and a series of novels featuring the Jack Irish character. It’s always fun to discover a “new” writer, so I’m not eager to start hoarding copies of those other books and reading them soon. But unfortunately my reading pile isn’t getting any smaller!