REVIEW: The Broken Shore by Peter Temple

Series: N/A

Book Number: N/A

Read this book for: Australian mystery, noir detective, damaged detective, dark secrets, intertwined plot, literary mystery

Quick Review: A beautifully written noir piece with a slow-burn pace; it takes a while to get into but once hooked, you won’t be able to put it down.

***

Joe Cashin was different once. He moved easily then. He was surer and less thoughtful. But there are consequences when you’ve come so close to dying. For Cashin, they included a posting away from the world of Homicide to the quiet place on the coast where he grew up. Now all he has to do is play the country cop and walk the dogs. And sometimes think about how he was before. Then prominent local Charles Bourgoyne is beaten and left for dead. Everything seems to point to three boys from the nearby Aboriginal community; everyone seems to want it to. But Cashin is unconvinced. And as tragedy unfolds relentlessly into tragedy, he finds himself holding onto something that might be better let go.

THE BROKEN SHORE is a 2005 mystery from writer Peter Temple, winner of the Gold Dagger award for Best Crime Novel of the Year. It is an Australian piece of crime fiction, given to me as a gift by some thoughtful friends who recently visited the country and picked out the most perfect ’souvenir’ to bring back – a fantastic crime novel that I likely would never have been aware of otherwise!

This is a stand-alone novel, but it feels like part of a series; there is so much backstory about the main character, Detective Senior Sergeant Joe Cashin, that it feels like there should be volumes before to fill in some of the blanks. Rather than being a detraction, however, the lack of history makes you desperate to learn more about the character, and as you start to get more bits and pieces of information, the character becomes more and more fascinating. While there are still things you would like to know about him by the end of the novel, it does not feel like you are missing anything crucial. There has also been a sequel/companion novel published, called TRUTH.

In fact, much of this novel remains vague, open, and unclear on the characters and events that happen. If you are one of those readers who needs concrete answers, with all loose ends tied up and everything neatly filed away, this might be a challenging read for you. The novel answers enough questions to create a satisfying resolution, but also leaves enough questions to remain pleasingly open to interpretation. This increases the novel’s sense of dark realism.

This novel is very stylistically noir – a little bit cynical, a little bit darker than reality – but does not become overdramatic. Everything, from the characters to the pacing of the plot, combine to make a story that draws you in completely. The pacing is slow and a little bit confusing at first, but as some of the threads find one another and weave together, you find out a bit more about the characters and the plot picks up. It comes to a head with some action and a clever resolution that is even more gratifying given the level of unknown that you started with. It is far from simple, but still streamlined, once you reach the end.

A quick caveat: one of the things that contributed to the confusion I felt at the beginning of the novel is the amount of Australian slang contained in the novel. If you are not Australian or familiar with the more colloquial parts of the language, the first third of the novel has a bit of a steep learning curve. However, once you start to understand the language, and the plot picks up speed, the confusion evaporates.

THE BROKEN SHORE is an incredible piece of writing that fans of noir and literary crime fiction should definitely consider! We’re adding more Australian crime fiction to the reading lists on the strength of its plot and writing.

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