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Book review: <i>Truth</i> by Peter Temple

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the cover of the book

A young girl is found naked and dead in one of Melbourne's newest, most secure residential buildings on top of a casino. The players are powerful, and nobody's talking. Three bodies are found tortured to death in a house in Oakleigh, there are no breaks in the case, or the the stifling Melbourne bushfire summer. For the head of homicide, it's a matter of keeping on.

The story

Steve Villani lives in the shadow of the men who have gone before him. His father, Bob, remains stubbornly on his property, in danger of burning to the ground at any moment. Villani knows he has to do something for Bob and his brothers the way he always has, but he has other things on his mind.

Villani also lives in the shadow of Singo, his old boss. He tries to run homicide the way Singo would have, but Singo certainly wasn't perfect. Villani has two big cases to solve, one of which he's been told specifically to leave alone and the other of which could ruin his career if he puts a foot wrong. His marriage is in tatters, and his youngest daughter is on the street in the company of drug addicts. He has to try and hold everything together, make sure everyone gets looked after and the dead get justice, but all the ghosts of his past, personal and professional, come crawling out of the woodwork. Villani has to work out what's important and let nature take its course.

The style

I've read Peter Temple before, his novel The Broken Shore was very good and I consider it a cut above in the Crime Fiction genre. But, my God, Truth is absolutely sensational. It is beautifully, heartwrenchingly written. Villani is one of the strongest characters I've ever read, and Temple has managed to use the Crime genre to write a literary novel about masculinity, human nature, and inevitable compromise.

The writing style is what makes it. The terse, short sentences give nothing away, and Temple is the master of saying exactly what he wants to in the right way. It's suits the deeper sub-plots and Villani's character development; Villani is a quick mind with a subtle sense of humour, pretending to plod while feeling things deeply and getting things done. He's not a politician but he knows how to play along, and because his character is a man of little words that the reader is privy to, the reveals about Villani and his past are perfectly timed throughout the story. The reader develops an instinct for the man Villani is, and by the time his character is fully revealed my empathy as a reader was completely developed. I cried. Twice. In a Crime Fiction. UNHEARD OF.

The story-line certainly wasn't shabby either. A couple of major homicide cases to solve, a couple of pretty major family problems to solve, and a political shit-storm brewing in the state of Victoria. I know it sounds like other authors have probably done it, but they haven't. The plot is masterfully tied together, and Temple doesn't give you anything for free. You have to work for the reveals, and it's totally worth it.

Once again, this is an Australian masterpiece. The sense of place is first-rate, and the exploration of masculinity in the context of rural and city Australia and the police force is just perfect. The way the characters interact, relate, the way the family dynamics work are all quintessentially what it is to be Australian. I can pick no fault.

Who is this book for?

Like the Crime genre? Do yourself a favour. Drop the run of the mill stories and read something actually good. Like this. If you're Australian and you like Crime, this is mandatory reading, although it may ruin other books for you. It's a bit desolate, though. Maybe don't read it if you feel like life is futile and you're terribly depressed.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Peter Temple has written other things. READ THEM.

In short

Title: Truth
Author: Peter Temple
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 0312572905
Year published: 2011
Pages: 400
Genre(s): Contemporary literature, Crime Fiction
Review Type: