Tangled Web UK Review December 2011
White Dog: A Jack Irish Thriller (Jack Irish Thriller 4) by
hbk out December 11
Published by Quercus
At last! First published back in 2003, White
Dog carried off that year’s Ned Kelly Award, Australia’s
top prize for crime writing, a fourth win in eight years for its author. All nine
of Temple’s books are now available in the UK; at least six of them, including
Dog, belong in every serious crime readers’ collection.
Chronologically, this book comes just before The
Broken Shore, his first major international success, and it displays
most if not all of the virtues of that lauded volume. Linda Hillier, tough local
radio interrogator and Jack’s on-off erotic obsession from the beginning
Debts, departs for a possible career in UK media, leaving Jack with
a new but otherwise far from compensatory Alfa Romeo. Possible compensation, but
this time negotiable, comes with a call from Drew Greer, Jack’s former partner-in-law.
Jack is needed to investigate the circumstances leading to the death of Mickey
Franklin, killed in the shower with a gun last known to be in the possession of
Sarah Longmore, abstract metal sculptor, daughter of local aristocracy and Mickey’s
recent ex-partner. “Keep your expectations low,” Jack advises Drew.
There is early strain induced by this form of employment, so Jack is soon heading
for Charlie Taub’s cabinet-making workshop, where the pieces of a new desk
are fitting together, under Charlie’s taciturn guidance, rather more easily
than the puzzle just outside the door. Thence to the local hostelry, the Prince
of Prussia, bereft of the now defunct “shaven-headed net visionaries and
their geek slaves” but still home to the Fitzroy Youth Club, anything but
young, often visionary, dispensing worldly wit and wisdom between the occasional
swig of beer.
If you have read a Jack Irish story before you know, expect and, indeed, beg for
these diversions. Just one more, save a little at-home cooking, before the investigation
proper gets underway. Jack’s horse-racing buddies Cameron Delray and ex-jockey
Harry Strang have their eyes on a long-term investment called Lost Legion, sadly
out of condition on a farm far from Melbourne. A shareholder, Jack’s along
to conduct the purchase.
But if Sarah did not kill Mickey Franklin, who did? And why? In another highly
satisfying plot (not always a Temple strong point), Jack’s investigation
takes him first to the attractive Sarah herself, then (in a beautifully nuanced
chapter that fills a gap in the Irish family history) to her father (his hand
feeling “more like that of a brickie than of the man that owned the brickworks”)
and thence into the grasping world of property development, all surface sheen
and gracious living in which Mickey had been a prominent if volatile operator.
But beneath that glossy surface lies another dependent and sleazier world where
unwelcome questions can sometimes trigger the most violent of responses.
Nuance everywhere in fact, along with an iron control of story, construction,
pace, tension (and release), excitement, the language pared down but still miraculously
expressive, people you’ll not forget, hard brilliant dialogue, humanity
Once finished, pause, recollect, be moved. Then return to Bad
Debts and start again. And if you have not read a Jack Irish story
before, start with that one and read through to White
Dog. One of life’s great pleasures awaits you.
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