Sunday, September 1, 2013

As seen on TV

I had that final argument with Comcast this month, and cancelled my cable. I didn't have much cable, just enough for reception, but it actually hadn't worked at all for a couple months (because I couldn't distinguish between all the junk mail Comcast sent me and something telling me that I needed to get a box. [And can I just say, didn't I get a new TV in the early 00s because I needed to adapt to a digital world? I still don't understand why I hadto get that box.]) Anyway, the box ceased working shortly after installation, Comcast sent me a higher bill and I just pulled the plug. I can do this, of course, because I've figured out how to watch some TV shows on my computer and my library will pretty much order whatever DVDs of cable-rific TV programming it can get hold of.  I am not a complete Luddite!  I am contributing to the end of broadcast TV!!

Yes, amazingly enough, this does relate to the book I listened to.  Even though I've never had super-cable, I do keep track of what's worth watching on those premium channels, and this summer I read about Jack Irish. Since I knew it would be awhile before the DVD came my way, I thought ... why not read one?  A perusal of the catalog revealed that we owned an audiobook, which I quickly learned was not Jack Irish, but what the heck -- try out the author in a standalone. (We do own an audio of Jack Irish, but -- you guessed it -- not the first one!)  And that is the too-long version of how I ended up with Peter Temple's The Broken Shore in my ears.

Detective Joe Cashin is taking a kind of leave of absence from his homicide work in Melbourne as he recovers from a botched investigation that left a young colleague dead and him seriously injured. He's policing Port Munro, the small town on the South Australia coast where he grew up, which gives him plenty of time to fix up his family's falling-down house and take long walks with his beloved Standard poodles. (Temple's descriptions of Cashin's canine companions clearly identify him as a dog lover.) Even when a prominent citizen is attacked in his home and severely beaten, Cashin can work on the case without reliving what happened to him in Melbourne. But when the victim dies and three young Aborigine boys are accused of the crime and soon after end up dead in a police raid, Cashin knows he has to dig a little deeper to get to the bottom of the assault. What he uncovers with his big-city police skills will shake him and his small town to its core.

This novel was far more gruesome than I usually like to read, but I thought it was an amazing piece of detective fiction. Temple sets his scenes beautifully with descriptions of the Australian coast and countryside that make them easy to picture but also infuse them with a sense of menace that is deeply disturbing. There are all these wonderful character studies of cops, villains, townspeople that vividly populate the story. The puzzle is compelling as well, as hints accumulate neatly and pay off in a satisfying way.  I'm not the only one who thinks so, as Temple has been awarded the Ned Kelly Award for Crime Fiction several times, including for The Broken Shore.

There are a lot of Aussie- isms in this book, which most readers will under- stand from context. But if not, the US audiobook publisher has thoughtfully provided a glossary, which I did find helpful for the occasional really obscure reference.

The audiobook was originally produced in Australia, so its narrator, Peter Hosking, comes with an authentic accent. And an authentic Aussie accent means I really have to pay attention as the rhythms are unfamiliar to my ears and speakers talk fairly quickly. My attention paid off though in enjoying a fine performance from Hosking. He reads at a fairly steady pace, but with a lot of emotion from the weary and anxious Cashin's perspective. His characters are easily distinguishable and I'm sure he offers a racial distinction between Cashin and the Aborigine policeman with whom he eventually partners. What I heard here was the Aborigine's deep, raspy voice as mentioned in the text. His women sound natural, but I thought he went over the top a bit with the psychopathic murderer. That's a quibble, though; Hosking is a narrator I'd listen to again.

And Temple is an author I'll read again. But maybe not the Jack Irish books, since those will probably be available to me in a more accessible form within a couple of months. Sometimes it just easier to watch TV.

[The Victorian coast of southern Australia, in a photograph taken by Alpapad and retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.]

The Broken Shore by Peter Temple
Narrated by Peter Hosking
Blackstone Audio, 2007. 9:56

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