The Broken Shore by Peter Temple


I had low expectations for this police procedural, but found myself listening with growing enthusiasm.  It follows many of the usual dictates for novels of this type.  The detective is competent, unlike many of his fellows, is trying to quit his bad habits, and has alienated his wife.  In this case Joe Cashin is trying to quit smoking, is recovering from a terrible gunshot wound that has left him in constant pain, and wishes his ex-wife would let him see his son. 

Joe has two big unkempt poodles and they turn up regularly in the most appealing way.  At the very outset Joe is taking a walk  — he has moved back to the countryside outside Melbourne where he grew up to work in a less stressful environment — and he describes the dogs' take on the world this way:

When he was near the house, the dogs, black as licorice, came out of the trees, stopped, heads up, looked around as if seeing the land for the first time.  Explorers.  They turned their gaze on him for awhile, started down the slope.  He walked the last stretch as briskly as he could.  As he put his hand out to the gate they reached him, their curly black heads tried to nudge him aside, insisting on entering first, strong back legs pushing. 

The world Joe works in is truly awful; there's the casual racism, the murderous racism, the police corruption, the pedophelia, and the torture.  He does have a colleague, higher in the food chain, who is a good guy and a good friend.  He takes in a swagman, slang for itinerant worker, who helps bring a bit of order to Joe's life.  And a romantic interest develops with a woman he knew slightly as a teenager. 

A thoroughly satisfying book.

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