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.