Published: May 2008
This is an extremely stylish ‘cop’ book. It centres around Cashin, a lugubrious homicide detective who is sent back to his home town to investigate a break in and physical assault on an elderly man. When the police investigation produces three suspects, local black boys, a car chase results in the death of two of the boys and a huge outcry from the black community along with much racist feeling from some local white people who assume the boys’ guilt. Cashin is sent on leave while the incident is investigated but it becomes clear that the police will be keen to cover up any blame which may fall at their feet. When the third boy is released on bail and kills himself, the case is seen as closed. But Cashin pursues the investigation and uncovers a ring of lies and deceit surrounding the old man and his family. He uncovers a paedophile ring which goes back to a local boys’ school. The victims, now grown up, have been responsible for some vicious murders. Cashin is nearly killed exposing the truth but recovers and the dead boys are cleared of the crime.
Temple has created a wonderfully atmospheric novel. The plot successfully combines many elements – violence, police cover ups, racism, small-town attitudes, paedophilia. His policemen are very far from perfect – at times frustrated, lazy, uninterested, racist, brilliant, brave, sexist. Local politics plays a role too and Temple’s small town is utterly convincing, as are all his characters. The dialogue is brilliant – spare and stripped back, always colloquial. He captures how people actually speak.
And Cashin is a great character. Temple manages to fit in a picture of his whole life and family around the plot. He drinks too much, has a tendency towards depression, gets lonely, listens to opera, has nightmares about a violent attack on him by a psychopath a few years ago.
The whole novel ends on a hopeful note, but it is overall a sad tale of lost innocence and the attempt to recover from trauma or abuse. It reminded me of that Australian film, Lantana, from a few years ago. This is worth having a look at.
Winner of the Crime Writers Association Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award for Best Crime Fiction 2007; Winner of Australia's Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel of the Year; winner of the Australian Publishing Book of the Year Award; nominated for the Miles Franklin Award (Australia's premier literary award), The Broken Shore has been published internationally to critical acclaim.