Thursday, June 10, 2010

BOOK: Truth by Peter Temple

Truth by Peter Temple, 387 pages

Aussie Author Challenge; Published in 2010 (review copy from Random House Canada)

Truth is described as the sequel to The Broken Shore, Temple's acclaimed novel (CWA Golden Dagger 2007), but I'm gathering it is more of a parallel book. Same location, with some overlapping characters. I decided to read Truth first and I don't think I missed much. I didn't know some of the characters, like Joe Cashin from The Broken Shore or Jack Irish who has his own series, as well as I would if I'd read some of his other books, but it seemed ok and they made small cameos only.

Stephen Villani, head of the Victoria homicide squad is having the worst week of nearly any character I've read. Mind you, he's not the nicest guy around, very much cop, manly guy, but he's having some midlife crisis stuff, trying to solve several brutal murders that happened close together, his family is shit, and his childhood, which he is brooding, on left much to be desired. The forest fires threatening his beloved forest, and his distant father, are at the front of his mind. Stephen was the best part of the book, as I was torn between feeling sorry for him and hoping he'd get some issues straightened out, and with thinking he's an ass for the decisions he's made, especially with his family. (Am I reading about Villani, or is it Erlender from Iceland or Montalbano from Capri?)

The plot was a bit complicated, and I found the dialogue very 30s noir, hard-boiled cop, with a twist of Aussie slang to further confuse me. I've read his writing described as 'elliptical.' However, it also left me feeling very immersed in modern Australia, like I was watching a Law and Order, Victoria style. I like the police procedural style of mystery, so that the reader discovers information with Villani, although sometimes we have to wait a bit for the detail. Villani will have an idea, or see a name, and we are left in suspense to find out, but not too long. With his position as Head of Homicide, Villani is running in a higher social scene than he is accustomed. At this level, I worried that Villani was almost out of his league.

Characters were introduced without a lot of background, and at times I would have loved one of those character guides you see in the front of some books. Until I read The Broken Shore, I won't know if it's Temple's style to write that way, or if they are from other books. I also really liked one of Villani's team, an Aborigine cop named Dove, and their growing friendship. I'd look forward to more with the two of them.

Overall, a terrific new mystery author I've discovered, and I am really looking forward to reading The Broken Shore and hopefully running into Villani in a minor role. Truth is fast paced and complex, and another new author I want to read more of.

also reviewed:
Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise


  1. It is very much Peter Temple's style to make his reader work to figure out what is going on, and by writing elliptically I also think he captures the flavour of Australian English very well. I'm glad you enjoyed Truth as Peter Temple is one of my favourite authors, I'd certainly recommend Truth and the Jack Irish books.

  2. sarah - It's funny that I don't mind elliptical writing and being confused with mystery books, but I don't like it when the novel is strictly literature. I could tell that Jack Irish was 'somebody' even in his very small scene in Truth, but I didn't know who he was. Thanks for the rec, I'll read more Temple.


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