Review: Peter Temple – White Dog

I have mixed views about this book. I love Peter Temple, have read all his previous novels and was eagerly anticipating White Dog the fourth book featuring Jack Irish to be published in the UK.  Perhaps I should have done more research before buying it because as soon as I had started the book, I realised that I had read it before. It was first published in Australia in 2003 and I obviously got hold of a copy when I visited the country a couple of years ago. I’m used to translations appearing in the UK significantly later than their original publication but this is the first time I’ve fallen into the trap with a book written in English. Given that it’s been nearly two years since Truth was published here I think it was reasonable that I had assumed it was a newly written book. In this day and age, where I can buy books easily from all over the world and given Temple’s increasing popularity here in the UK, it seems strange that this has only just appeared. Anyway, that gripe aside – and let’s face it perhaps I should keep a better mental list of the books that I’ve read – I had an enjoyable few days re-reading the book.

The plot begins with Jack Irish hired by his ex-business partner Drew to investigate the killing of Mickey Franklin by his girlfriend Sarah Longmore. As both victim and apparent perpetrator have chequered pasts, Irish suspects that there is more to the murder than a lover’s tiff. However, about half way through the book, the narrative shifts with a cataclysmic event and the focus moves to Jack Irish and his unwillingness to let sleeping dogs lie. Both parts of the narrative were very enjoyable and my only criticism would be the necessary suspension of disbelief required to accept the accident that befalls Irish.

I personally prefer the Jack Irish series to Temple’s stand-alones, although The Broken Shore  was excellent. Irish is a well drawn protagonist, in the mold of those hard-boiled PI’s but with enough quirks to make him interesting and for him to stand out from others in his field. The writing is also perfect for this style of crime fiction – sparse and dialogue heavy. I loved the descriptions of the ever-changing Melbourne and was reminded of the last Lawrence Block A Drop of the Hard Stuff which also chronicled how a city becomes gentrified when the coffee shops move in. I wouldn’t suggest readers new to Peter Temple start with White Dog as there seemed to be fair bit of referencing to previous books but for existing fans this an enjoyable way to while away an hour or two. Just check you’ve not already acquired a copy at some point in the last eight years.

Maxine at Petrona also reviewed the book recently and gave it an equally positive review.

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8 thoughts on “Review: Peter Temple – White Dog

  1. I’ve fallen into that same trap, too, Sarah – buying a book I’ve read some time ago. I list mine in GoodReads now in case it happens again, but before the internet it was not so easy to keep track. I did enjoy this book but though I love the character of Jack Irish I feel that the series is a bit formulaic. However, the quality of his writing alone, as well as the sharply funny portrayals of Melbourne and various “types” that wander in and out of the pages, are enough for me! He’s a superb author, I think.

  2. I’ve just checked out GoodReads Maxine – I might give it a go. I am hopeless at remembering what I’ve read so this looks a great site.
    I’ve never been to Melbourne but I’ve got a real hankering to return to Oz at the moment after reading White Dog. The power of strong writing I suppose.

  3. It’s actually quite common for Aussie books to be published many years later in the UK or US, depends on when they can sell their rights which often only happens after they’ve had success with a later book as in Temple’s case with his standalone novels.

    I was pretty hopeless with keeping track of my reading for many years too – it’s only relatively recently (last 4-5 years) that I started keeping a record – I wish I’d had Good Reads when i started reading all those years ago

  4. Bum! Just back-tracking through your archives to see what commonality there is between what you’ve read and my reading history and I’ve just seen this – I hadn’t realised this, but then I have both Truth, White Dog and loads of other Temples on TBR pile. Not the first time this has happened to me either.
    For the record – only 1 book in common so far, Trackers!

  5. Always nice to see someone else enjoying a Temple binge! I felt the same way about White Dog – wonderful dialogue and descriptions of Melbourne, with a few doubts about the accident in the middle. If you enjoy Melbourne capers, you might like Shane Moloney’s Stiff – not as dark as Temple but equally dry. Happy reading!

    • Thanks Zac and yes I do wish Temple would write some more books soon. Melbourne really comes alive in his novels. I haven’t heard of Shane Maloney and I’m not sure how easy he is to find in the UK but I shall write down the name and see what I can do. Thanks!

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