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The Broken Shore    by Peter Temple order for
Broken Shore
by Peter Temple
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Picador, 2008 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Peter Temple, Australian winner of five Ned Kelly Awards as well as the CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award, brings us The Broken Shore, starring Victoria police officer Joe Cashin. An ex-homicide detective, Cashin left city life in Melbourne to work in Port Monro, after a severe injury on a serial killer case left him with constant pain. The mystery is steeped in the beauty of the Australian countryside and its dialogue is authentically rich in Aussie slang, which may create a challenge for some North American readers.

Cashin is a complex, flawed character, yet one who worries about society's underdogs, as exemplified by his giving a place to live and temporary work to a hobo, Dave Rebb who was found sleeping in someone's shed. Now Cashin lives on land his ancestors owned, with his two dogs, large 'black as liquorice' poodles. His job with the local constabulary is undemanding, he's surrounded by longstanding friends and family, and he's fulfilling his dream of renovating (with Rebb's help) the ruin that is now his home.

The opening shot of the mystery is the discovery of the corpse of seventy-something local magnate Charles Bourgoyne in his mansion at The Heights by his housekeeper. Cashin is not in charge of the investigation - that job falls to criminal investigation unit boss Hopgood in nearby Cromarty. He quickly pins the blame on two Aboriginal youths - as Bourgoyne's lawyer comments, 'forty-four years in the courts in Cromarty, I've seen more Abos fitted up than I've had hot dinners.' Cashin's ex-boss Villani puts him in charge of apprehending them but Hopgood's people ignore orders, two young men die when their car is stopped, and the police deservedly face an 'avalanche of shit.'

Though some evidence points to the Aboriginal youths, Cashin is unconvinced of their guilt, and steadily follows up leads. Along the way, he renews his acquaintance with Helen Castleman, whom he admired in high school, and who is now a lawyer and his new next door neighbor. Gradually, Cashin uncovers a trail that leads to more gruesome deaths, and a very dark and disturbing history of horrors hidden under the guise of doing good. The Broken Shore is a dark, gripping read - I enjoyed it and hope for an encore from Joe Cashin.

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