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Truth: A Novel by Peter Temple
Review by Mel Jacob
Picador Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312572907
Date: 26 April 2011 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Wikipedia Entry / Show Official Info /

This police procedural by Peter Temple is set in Melbourne and features the head of Homicide, Steve Villani. Dark and depressing, it resembles Jassy Mackenzie's Stolen Lives with a stark and gritty portrait of Melbourne and politics. Police and political corruption abound and an apparently simple murder has tentacles that topple a government. Brilliant, but flawed, a womanizer, a neglecter of family, Steve Villani is not a sympathetic protagonist. The novel flits from his work, to his past cases, to his childhood, all to build the picture of a man who tries to excel at his job, but not as human being.

The choppy dialogue and the many characters make the reading difficult. Steve's father Bob, a tough man, drives a truck for a living and returns home on weekends leaving his twelve-year-old son to care for his two younger brothers. The one task father and son share is planting and nourishing an oak forest in the Outback. Now a fierce brush fire scours the landscape and threatens the family home and the forest.

Villani's family life is in disarray. His wife, a caterer for film crews, is gone much of the time. His son is in Scotland while two daughters live at home. The older one gets on well with him, but the younger has gotten into drugs and taken to the streets. He has the police alerted to find her. Meanwhile he has an on-off relationship with a newscaster.

Involved with two sensational murder cases, Villani brings his memory, ability to tie disparate details together, and many contacts to bear on the murders. Some clues stretch back many years. He also juggles police rivalries, political demands, and his own integrity. Past mistakes hover in the background.

A prize winning Australian novelist, Temple delivers a portrait of a complex man and the compromises he makes to survive. The dark tone of the novel will alienate some readers and echoes that of other crime writers such as Jassy Mackenzie and Vincent McCaffrey.

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