Peter Temple´s first crime novel has already won him critical acclaim, if the blurb is to be believed, which calls him “Australia´s top crime novelist”. Be that as it may, Temple has a thrilling story to tell, with just that hint of sarcasm that endears him to this reader here.
It´s “a Jack Irish thriller”, so we meet Irish, another ex-alcoholic (wife conveniently murdered by a former client) and ex-lawyer. He now earns his living as a debt collector for a Mr Wootton and tops his income working for Harry Strang, a high stakes gambler at horse races. Football and cabinet-making are two more of his interests, and he lets the reader into all the fine print about these three fields of his expertise enriched by his Aussie vernacular. For a non-native Australian quite a challenge.
But the main plot is so convincingly planned and developed, that the reader happily plays along. An ex-client, recently released from prison, phones him, asking for his help, and the next thing Irish hears, is that this client is killed by a cop pleading self-defence. So he starts putting his nose in dirty and dangerous business: cops, who framed his ex-client for a murder he never committed, the victim a young political activist, who rallyed people against the Yarra Cove development project in Melbourne.
The deeper Irish digs the more dangerous it gets. A lady journalist friend and Cam, one of Strang´s employees, are the only ones he can rely on. And what a thrill it is to follow a good story to its convincing end when Irish creates the greatest possible political havoc for his enemies.
Sad to say, I never grasped the niceties of gambling. As an aside,”Irish” we are told, comes from I. Reich, Jack´s grandfather, who fled from Hamburg to Australia.