Joe Cashin is a homicide detective who's recuperating from physical and emotional trauma in the small town of Port Monro on the south coast of Australia. While a reader can perhaps find those sorts of problems in his or her own country, Temple keeps it Australian through his use of the local lingo (and then puts a glossary of Australian terms in the back for reference-- which is itself quite funny in parts), description of little things like food, and especially in terms of a sense of place. as well as the descriptions of the small pubs, truck stops, the "roads smeared with roadkill ---" or the road to Port Monro: the "pocked junctions where one or two tilted houses stood against the wind and signs pointed to other desperate crossroads." The characters are also very well developed, especially Joe Cashin -- a broken and damaged, yet decent man trying to get it all back together, whose backstory and troubled past (including an unstable childhood) are unfolded little by little, interwoven with his present.
Challenge: review "The Broken Shore" without mentioning how "Australian" it is. There are a lot of reviews on this site expressing frustration with The Broken Shore for its dialectical idiosyncrasies.
I know I have a connection & I know, I know many of the locations mentioned in the book & that his lead character Joe Cashin - in 'The Broken Shore' has two huge black poodles & every morning Mon - Fri they scare the absolute crap out of my Son & I on our morning walk to school (they have built in stealth (the neighbour & I have discussed) & never hit you at the same point of the fence line). So yes lots of funny connections, but on a more serious note this book won what's deemed as the most coveted award internationally for best crime novel 'The Duncan Lawrie Dagger'.
I found this incredibly distracting as it left me with the feeling I was starting a series in the middle and needed to read previous books. Unfortunately, there were no previous books with Cashin. But, because of all the positive reviews, I continued and put aside my need for character development and just read for story, which was better.
This was a dark and twisting noir with an impish heart that I thoroughly enjoyed despite the lingering questions it left me with. It isn't long before Cashin discovers the so called philanthropist may have been doing more than just providing poor teens with a chance to go to summer camp and it quickly becomes apparent that quite a few people might have wanted him dead. This is a wide ranging novel with a huge cast of characters that occasionally gets super unweildy but despite a lot of twists and turns and some unresolved story lines I found myself really enjoying this. Its very much a character driven book with very sharp and often very funny dialogue that calls to mind an Australian version of a Bogey and Bacall movie.
I found the characters and the storyline hard to connect with, and the book failed to interest me.
With a nice tight prose style, this mystery transcends the genre with the quality of its writing, well drawn characters, and nuanced exploration of racial issues.
Look, at least the hero wasnt a loveable larrikin (so, at least we are spared one Aussie cliché, mates and sheilas) but if anything he was a kind of cowboy come home seeking peace and quiet only to be destined to lift the lid on racism, corruption and a child sex ring. And isnt there lots of blood and dont we get treated to lots of detailed screaming torment? Thank goodness there is one class of person left to whom no extremity of torment is too much for them to endure to sate our need for revenge, especially now that torturing blacks to death like we used to in the good old days is only approved of by the sorts of people none of US would choose to be seen dead with. The metaphor of the broken shore is interesting and a nice comparison with the destruction brought upon our society by the all too various forms of corruption the book details.
The impact of trauma on police, those they serve and those they attempt to protect the public from is beautifully portrayed. Much, much more could be written about the merits of this book but most importantly I found it hard to put down and I will think about it for quite some time to come.
Peter Temple is an Australian crime fiction writer.