The Broken Shore by Peter Temple, Review: Deft observation

Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore is an atmospheric crime novel that explores the darker side of humanity. It won the CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award and was a Booklist Best Crime Novel of the Year. Read on for our full review.

The Broken Shore Book Synopsis

The Broken Shore - Peter Temple - Book ReviewA novel about a place, about family, about politics and power, and the need to live decently in a world where so much is rotten.

Joe Cashin was different once. He moved easily then; 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 bashed 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…

(Bolinda Audio – Narrated by Peter Hosking, 9hrs 47mins)

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The Broken Shore is the first of Peter Temple’s novels that I have read and I must admit I took a little while to get into this story. Why? I was listening to this in audio and I found the amount of swearing in the dialogue in the first chapter quite off-putting. I also found the frequent use of derogatory names for the Australian indigenous community difficult to listen to.

Darkly funny story… I actually had this playing in my car when I drove past an RBT (random breath test) one day and was mortified at the thought I might have been pulled over and had police hear what was coming out of my car stereo!

But, despite what for me was a shaky start, I am immensely glad I persisted with this novel. Temple’s character development and depth of story soon steam-rolled my early reservations.

Dark side of humanity

In The Broken Shore, Peter Temple has created characters that display the darker side of humanity all too present in society, whether we choose to admit it or not. He conveys a deeply authentic and relentless message. A continual surging towards the delivery of justice in an imperfect world by imperfect people, symbolic of waves crashing into a shore. So be warned, this is no pollyanna story. Some readers may find the subject matter confronting, over and above the use of language I’ve already mentioned.

But it is not all doom and gloom, with laugh out loud moments borne from good old Aussie sarcasm. And, there are also tender interactions between tough guy Joe Cashin and his adored pets, two giant poodles. Temple’s descriptions of animal behaviours and personification of their intentions are a real joy. The audio narration by Peter Hosking was very well done too, particularly his delivery of the narrative steeped in Australian colloquialism.

Peter Temple is a deft observer of life with important messages to convey. I look forward to reading the sequel to The Broken Shore, the 2010 Miles Franklin Award-winning Truth.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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Genre: Drama, Crime-Detective, Mystery

More reviews of the Broken Shore

“Peter Temple has been described as one of Australia’s best crime novelists, but he’s far better than that. He’s one of our best novelists full stop.” – The Sun Herald

“Having read the new novels of Michael Connelly and Martin Cruz Smith, I have to say that Temple belongs in their company. . . . Murder, rape, suicide, child abuse, police brutality, shootouts–but always in the context of gorgeous writing . . . Throughout, Temple finds time to please us with flashes of writing that range from poetic to brutal.” ―The Washington Post

“The extra emphasis on character, as well as subtle commentary on race and class divides, add many welcome layers to Temple’s already-outstanding acuity for plotting and pace and his almost musical ear for dialogue.” ―The Baltimore Sun

If you like the sound of The Broken Shore you may also enjoy reading:
The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland  /  Silver  by Chris Hammer /  Resurrection Bay (Caleb Zelic #1)  by Emma Viskic  /  The Great Divide  by LJM Owen  /  The Port Fairy Murders by Robert Gott

About the Author, Peter Temple

Peter Temple is an Australian author who sits firmly in the crime fiction genre. Previously a journalist and journalism lecturer, he began writing fiction in the 1990s. He has published several titles and won many literary awards including the Miles Franklin Award, Gold Dagger and 5 Ned Kelly Awards.

This review counts towards my participation in the 2011 Aussie Author Challenge.