Monday, 9 August 2010


Having been so impressed with Peter Temple's novel Truth (link to that here), I went back and found a copy of The Broken Shore, and my immediate response was to be struck by how similar the two books are, and not just because Stephen Villani from Truth appears in The Broken Shore. It's more because the earlier novel seems like a small-town blueprint for the later one. Both books deal with corruption, with property development, with the sort of conspiracy that comes with protecting access to profit, but both (small spoiler coming up) resolve themselves by discovering the crimes are on a different level altogether. I might have said mundane, although crime for profit or power is actually far more mundane than the actual motives in these books.

Plus Joe Cashin, the protagonist from this novel, has returned to his small home town from Melbourne, where he worked with Villani--but the two are very similar men: bad marriages, bad habits; Cashin is like a small-town, less sophisticated version of Villani. They are also caught up, trapped you might say, in the macho world of Australian maleness; there is a very real feeling that the criminals and police are engaged in nothing more than a sort of violent display of antlers.

What makes Temple so interesting is the level of disfunction in his characters which mirrors the disfunction of Australian society, the disfunction not evident beneath the Australian Dream. I would probably like these two novels better had their crimes turned out to be part of that corruption, but that would mean they were among the greatest detective novels I've ever read, instead of each simply being among the best I've read this year.


Anonymous said...

Dear Michael: What exactly is the Australian Dream?

Michael Carlson said...

It is something halfway between what Arthur's son felt in the Kinks' album Arthur and what you see in any episode of Kath and Kim...