Those who have seen previous installments of my Peter Temple Project may be forgiven for thinking I’ve abandoned it. When, last September, I announced my intention to read all the books by the Australian crime-fiction great, I had figured I’d wrap it up by May of this year—after all, with only nine novels to his name, Temple isn’t exactly wildly prolific. (And he’s certainly no Gary Disher.) I kept up a one-a-month schedule for awhile, getting through the first three Jack Irish novels (Bad Debts, 1996; Black Tide, 1999; and Dead Point (2000), as well as the stand-alones An Iron Rose (1998) and Shooting Star (1999).
Then, in late winter, I read Identity Theory (2002), also published as In the Evil Day. But as Booklist had already reviewed that one back in the day, I didn’t need to write a “Second Look,” or retrospective review, as I had with the others. I did plan to write a blog post, adding a few comments to Frank Sennett’s fine review, but for some reason, I procrastinated. Already hip-deep in plans for Mystery Month 2015, and then frantically planning for annual conference, and then finding myself in dire need of vacation . . . well, last week I looked up, saw the book on my shelf, and realized it was well past time to do something about it. (Can I also blame my tardiness on the reading for two literary awards I’ve been judging this year? Yes? Good.)
In truth, I don’t have a lot to add to Frank’s review. I liked Identity Theory for the same reason I like a most Temple books—the cool, restrained writing; the excellent dialogue; the sense that you’re spending time with characters who are more thoughtful and intelligent than most in crime fiction—even if it didn’t quite grab me in the way that some of his books have. This one’s a true international thriller, and he handles the different locations nicely, but at the same time I think I missed Australia, the country Temple writes about so well. I don’t blame him for wanting to broaden his scope, and yet I missed the sense of characters interacting with each other in a place that meant more to them. A true strength of the book, though, was John Anselm’s attempts to overcome his traumatic past. Or, as Frank writes:
And Temple offers a fascinating take on what happens to a hostage reporter after the headlines fade, how difficult it can be finally to tear off the mental blindfold and reengage with the world.
What’s next, and what’s left? Next up is the fourth and final (as far as I know) Jack Irish novel, White Dog (2003). After that, all that’s left is The Broken Shore (2005), the phenominal novel that was my introduction to Temple, and Truth (2009).
And after that, maybe I’ll see if I can learn why Temple hasn’t had a book out since then!