Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Joe Cashin is a Detective Sergeant from the Major Crime Squad who has been transferred to the small country station in his childhood home town, while he recovers from physical and emotional injuries sustained in an investigation. He lives, with his two poodles, in the only remaining section of the house his grandfather built and then partially destroyed (because he wanted to), and there's something of that streak of building and destroying in his entire family to this day.

When a wealthy, elderly local landholder is found brutally bashed in his home, Joe finds himself dragged reluctantly into the investigation which the local police conveniently decide has to be the work of local Aboriginals boys. There's outright antagonism between the whites and the Aborigines within the town and nobody in the white community seems all that surprised or upset when Aboriginal boys are killed as the police attempt to arrest them on suspicion of the bashing. But the local police seem to have only scratched the surface and Joe and his mates from the larger, Melbourne based crime squad are dragged into the investigation because of the political connections of one of the Aboriginal boys and the bashed man.

This main investigation weaves its way through the lives of Joe; a swaggie who helps to push Joe into decisions about his grandfather's house; and local solicitors and politicians, all of whom are involved in the sorts of secrets that can sometimes remain buried for so long in a small country town.

This is not a book for readers who don't like confrontational writing. The language is strong and pitched perfectly for the characters, their personalities, backgrounds and locations. The characters are starkly drawn and spotlighted so that all their imperfections and virtues are in very clear focus. The landscape contributes to both setting the location of the action and the mood of the characters and events. The mystery is nicely laid out with a final solution which is progressively revealed throughout the story in a way that is fair to the reader. The final outcomes, however, contain a unpredictable twist that prevents the reader from becoming complacent. Peter Temple has a way of writing the Australian story which is stunning in its clarity of vision and its honest, forthright summation of everything that Australia is, or was.

Year of Publication

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. Peter Temple's gift for compelling plots and evocative, compassionately drawn characters has earnt him a reputation as the grand master of Australian crime writing.

The Broken Shore is Temple's finest book yet; a novel about a place, about family, about politics and power, and the need to live decently in a world where so much is rotten. It is a work as moving as it is gripping, and one that defies the boundaries of genre.

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