I actually first heard about Peter Temple’s novel ‘Truth’ via Lisa of ANZ Lit Lovers after she had announced it had won The Miles Franklin Award this year – one of Australia’s most prestigious book awards. Below in the comments was what sparked my interest because Meg said ‘of all the good books on the list they had to pick this one’ and Lisa followed up with ‘I notice that Morag Fraser (one of the judges) said there hadn’t been any criticism of their decision. Morag, that might be because we’re all thunderstruck…’ I also noticed that ‘Truth’ was a rarity as it is a crime novel, I do love a good crime, and crime novels don’t tend to win or even get long listed inn literary prizes… Now myself being the judge on a new prize I wanted to know and read more and so hunted it down at my local library.
‘Truth’ opens with an almost impossible and unsolvable murder. On one of the highest floors of a new skyscraper complex, which can only be reached with various security cards, a woman is found in the bath with her neck broken. What makes this all the more difficult to solve is that it happened on the opening night of the Casino down below and the security system went down. In steps Stephen Villani, currently acting as Melbourne’s Head of Homicide, who’s mission it is to solve the riddle. It is also Villani who later thinks what initially looks like another random murder of three men in the suburbs of Oakleigh might actually be connected. From here Temple weaves in a mystery which is just as much political as it is about catching killers.
Temple also captures an interesting picture of Australia with ‘Truth’ as the bush fires rage in the background it looks at the state of the politics and it’s business climate which I admit if I had known it dealt with beforehand would have put me off slightly, however I read on and didn’t get bored once despite it not being quite my cup of tea subject wise. What I will admit I struggled with initially was the fact that the prose of the book is so taut every single word counts to the point where it’s almost so shortened and saying so much per sentence or sparse conversation you sometimes need to re-read. Once you have gotten around that and are in the full flow of the book you see the purpose of it, it speeds everything up and heightens it.
The other thing that made this book good and also slightly clichéd all at once (if that makes sense?) is Villani himself. He’s so flawed (adulterous), blunt, complex (always concerned about his daughter, has a weird relationship with his father) that he ends up rather a typical crime novel anti-hero. Why is it so many authors tend to do this with lead male detective type characters in modern crime novels? All in all though, this is a crime novel with a difference, and one I would say fans of the genre should give a whirl.
A book that will: possibly take a little while to get into because the prose is so to the point, but it makes it’s something different in its genre and worth it overall. I have a feeling if you liked ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ then you would enjoy this. I didn’t like the Larsson, but interestingly I ended up liking this one rather a lot, you may feel the same too. 7/10
Is ‘Truth’ worthy of a big literary award? Well, I wasn’t on the panel and I haven’t read the other books submitted so I couldn’t comment. I also wouldn’t want to take anything away from Temple by saying that his winning gave the prize a huge amount of slightly controversial publicity which I think some people feel it did. I can only judge it as a crime/thriller and on that front I found it a taught, unusually written, hardboiled novel that delivered and made me want to try more of his work if maybe not something with such a political pulse at its heart.
So why is crime fiction being listed for an award not aimed solely at its genre specifically such a big deal? If they do it tends to spark some heated debate as ‘Child 44’, which is what I am thinking of more than ‘Truth’, did with the Man Booker! I always find it an interesting point any ideas? Who else has read ‘Truth’? Has anyone read anything else by Peter Temple they could recommend?