Tuesday, 5 February 2013


I have been trying to diversify my list of authors of crime fiction, so I had a look at the Ned Kelly awards.  Hence, I came across Peter Temple, who writes in Truth about Inspector Stephen Villani, head of the Victoria Police Homicide Squad.

Villani is definitely an "old-style" police officer, and there are a lot of issues in his life.    This is rather a familiar approach to detective fiction, along the lines of what I understand is referred to as the "hard-boiled" detective.  In particular, Villanu reminded me at times of Michael Connelly's Detective Harry Bosch.

Temple's writing style is what I suppose you might call "fast moving".   The Guardian's review called it "compulsively paced".   There's a great deal of dialogue, and much of it is pretty cryptic (and coarse).   It's a very, very Melbourne-oriented book, and the reader who is familiar with Melbourne is at a definite advantage, as there are numerous references to locations with no real explanation given of their significance.  For example, there's a passing reference to someone having "received a ticket on the Tulla", which is full of meaning to those of us who love to hate the Tullamarine Freeway, but would be meaningless to others.   Likewise, there are references to places such as Bromby Street (in the context of being over the road from Police headquarters), the "Western Ring",  Brunswick Street, Preston, Oakleigh, Kew and Docklands. The full significance of these would only be apparent to someone familiar with the "territory".

The book is full of grim themes:  corruption, violence, obstructionism and flawed personalities.  In relation to the last, the story is as much about Villani's considerable "baggage" as it is about the solving  the various crimes.    As the Guardian says, there's an  "unrelenting ugliness of vision".   Even so, I got drawn into it, and persevered with it.  But perhaps there are too many issues?  At the end, I still didn't "get" how some of the numerous threads hung together.  Perhaps if I re-read it, more of the pieces would have fitted together, but by then I was ready to move on.


  1. I read Truth as a book group selection in December 2009. It didn't motivate me to read more by the same author, but I gave it an OK rating- maybe whodunnits are not my scene.
    On the other I was gripped the historical account of a 1921 child sex murder at the top end of town, and the conviction of the wrong man by the first use of forensic science -Gun Alley by Kevin Morgan. Gun Alley has been built over by Nauru house. Some crime demands attention.

  2. “In the late autumn, down windy streets raining yellow oak and elm leaves, I went to George Armit’s funeral. It was a small affair. Almost everyone George had known was dead. Many of them were dead because George had had them killed.” - The opening paragraph of “Black Tide” by Peter Temple.

    “It wasn’t raining in Ballarat and the locals were out on the pavement staring at the sky in amazement. Many of them had the pale, staring look of people newly pushed out of institutions. Someone once say that nobody went to live in Ballarat; you had to be committed by a magistrate.”

    Peter Temple's books may only be whodunnits but they are well-written. Last year some of his Jack Irish stories were shown on ABC TV.

    The character Jack Irish gets his surname from one of his ancestors who, on arrival in Australia, was asked his name by the immigration people and replied, "I. Reisch".