Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Broken Shore by Peter Temple

Title: The Broken Shore
Author: Peter Temple
ISBN: 9781847240446, Quercus, 2007
Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural
Rating: A+

First Line: Cashin walked around the hill, into the wind from the sea.

Seriously injured in the line of duty in Melbourne, Joe Cashin returns to the coast of southern Australia where he grew up. There he enjoys being a small town cop while his body slowly heals.

An elderly local millionaire is bludgeoned to death, and the investigation turns up three aboriginal boys trying to pawn the victim's watch. An ambush is put in motion, two of the boys die, and the police close the case. They are satisfied that the killers have been brought to justice. Only Cashin feels that something's not quite right, and he goes about putting the pieces together on his own time.

The first half of this book is a subtly written character study of many layers and its own inexorable pace. There is humor. There is a puzzling back story. There is the casual violence of well-entrenched bigotry. There is a depiction of place so atmospheric you can taste the salt spray and hear the surf crashing on the rocks:

Even standing well back from the crumbling edge of the keyhole, the scene scared him, the huge sea, the grey-green water skeined with foam, sliding, falling, surging, full of little peaks and breaks, hollows and rolls, the sense of unimaginable power beneath the surface, terrible forces that could lift you up and suck you down and spin you and you would breathe in icy salt water, swallow it, choke, the power of the surge would push you through the gap in the cliff and then it would slam you against the pocked walls in the Kettle, slam you and slam you until your clothes were threads and you were just tenderised meat.

By the time Cashin has gathered the pieces of truth and is beginning to put them together, there is no way you can stop reading. It doesn't have a thing to do with the time you have invested in the book. It has everything to do with the strength of Temple's writing and the siren song of the story he has to tell. You are well and truly hooked, and even though you have guessed where the clues are pointing, and you dread the outcome of it all, you can't stop turning the pages until every last word is read and you're light-headed and slightly queasy and stunned by the power of The Broken Shore.

After I'd finished the last page, all I could do was sit there and let my breathing slow down...let the dizziness pass...think about what I'd read. I felt as though the Kettle had just spit me out.

This is the first book by Peter Temple that I've read. It won't be my last.

[Note: Temple does use a bit of Aussie slang in this book. I usually don't have a problem with this because I've read many a book that didn't cater to the American public. Even so, I did find a word or two that I couldn't figure out from its context. If you don't have friends who can help you out, you can always make use of the Internet and websites like the Australian Slang Dictionary or Australian Slang.]


  1. Great review Cathy - I concur with your sentiments about how it's such an emotionally draining read. It's one of those books I thought about long after I'd finished.

    Just out of curiosity did you have any problems with the Aussie slang? My American sister-in-law coped fine with it but she's been hanging out with her Aussie family for 20 years now. She loaned her copy to a friend who said they couldn't understand half the words (which I thought was a bit over the top)

  2. Just from the quote I see what you mean when you say the writing is powerful. You have me interested in reading this book.

  3. Wow this sounds great I will have to check it out.

  4. I am a TOTAL sucker for a book set by the ocean.
    Add to it being a great book...{off to search out a copy...}

  5. Wow, that sounds good. I love books that involve me emotionally.

  6. Wow...this one is certainly going onto my TBR pile. Thanks for such a great review. Truly enjoy your blog.
    Tutu(tututhefirst on LT)

  7. Bernadette--I'm glad you left a comment because it reminded me that I'd left a bit out of my review. There were a couple of words that I needed clarification on, and I got help from an online Aussie slang dictionary. The friend who said they couldn't understand half the words had to be exaggerating (I hope)!

    Kerrie--Yes! Yet another author to add to the list.

    Margot--I hope you get a chance to read this book and enjoy it as much as I did!

    Caspette--Please do, it's wonderful!

    Caite--Happy hunting!

    Kathy--I was drained when I finished reading the book!

    Tutu--Thank you!

  8. I like the quote and the setting! I'll be looking for this one!

  9. Jenclair--Happy hunting...and Happy Reading! If you were a member of Paperback Swap, I'd tell you that my copy is there and up for grabs. :)


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!