“In a short time, he was on the street, orange sun behind the haze, looking for Finucane, unaccountably thinking about the first horse Bob raced, the best horse he ever had, the lovely little grey called Truth who won at her second start, won three from twelve, always game, never gave up. She sickened and died in hours, buckled and lay, her sweet eyes forgave them their stupid inability to save her.”
Well, ‘Truth’ had me in it’s grip over the weekend.
This crime novel depicts a dirty, grimy Melbourne, awash with drugs, criminals, corruption and injustice. Events are set at the time of the fires of 2009, so the general desperation of the city is echoed in the fire-threatened bushland. It is a book that made me very thankful that no-one in my family is a cop; it certainly could never used as a recruitment tool by the police force!
Temple writes in a choppy, ‘slice of life’ style that can have a slow brain like mine churning hard to keep up. Occasionally, particularly at the start, I had to go back and re-read sections of dialogue just to try and disentangle what they were talking about.
The central character, Stephen Villani, is intriguing; often dislikable, sometimes sympathetic. I guess my one criticism might be that Villani ticked all the boxes for the cliché of the detective as the flawed hero. He’s an ex-gambler with a failed marriage; a work-obsessed, absent father; a man of strong ethics compromised by a mistake made early in his career and an intimidating tough guy, a bully driven by guilt. But Temple is too good a writer to let all the clichés distract you.
The real, raw heart of ‘Truth’ is fatherhood. Failed fatherhood and the damage done by such a failure. It makes for an powerfully emotional story. Although I probably enjoyed ‘The Broken Shore’ more and felt more at ease with Joe Cashin than I ever could with Stephen Villani, I still loved this book. It’s one that will stay with me.