Character study as well as CSI technical gimmicks

June 10, 2007|By Sarah Weinman | Sarah Weinman,Special to The Sun

Origin

By Diana Abu-Jaber

Norton / 388 pages / $24

The Broken Shore

By Peter Temple

Farrar, Straus & Giroux / 356 pages / $24

Temple's previous efforts -- especially the Jack Irish novels -- amply illustrate why he's one of the best reasons to be thankful to Australia. But The Broken Shore takes his work to a richer, darker place, taking the conventions of crime novels and expanding them to incorporate the idiosyncrasies and unique traits of Temple's native country. In Joe Cashin, Temple fashions a man scarred raw from his experiences as a homicide detective who takes refuge in the small Australian coast island of his birth to escape. But eventually the abyss of violence, in the form of a murder of a local government official at the seeming hands of three young Aborigine boys, re-emerges with stunning effect -- making Cashin synthesize his former and current selves and create a more cohesive whole that is entirely appealing, melancholy without being maudlin.

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 end result more than justifies the many accolades preceding The Broken Shore's publication and foreshadows even more awards to come.

Sarah Weinman reviews crime fiction every month for The Sun.

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