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by Peter Temple
Quercus, May 2007
336 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847241549

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jack Irish is what you might call a jack of all trades and master of none. He used to be a high-flying lawyer but now bumps along with a few clients and spends the rest of his time working with an elderly furniture maker, doing some odd jobs for a former jockey, or watching his favourite football team.

And then he receives a strange phone call from a man claiming to be a former client of his and asking Jack to meet him. Jack doesn't remember the bloke, but then he doesn't remember much from that part of his life anyway, as he was out of control following his wife's murder. But when the man is killed in the pub car park where he was supposed to be meeting Jack, our hero feels duty-bound to ask questions.

Peter Temple's standalone novels and his series featuring Jack Irish are finally being published in the UK, and not a moment too soon. He's a fabulous storyteller, with his smooth-as-silk plotting, dry humour and ability to present a character in a few pen strokes. Lines like the following give you a flavour of Temple's writing: "Norm O'Neill's huge nose came around slowly, like the forward cannon on the USS Missouri swivelling to speak to Vietnam."

There's a good supporting cast of Jack's friends and former colleagues. And Temple is great at cameos I loved the old codgers in the spit and sawdust pub, complaining constantly about the football team's lack of success. The fact that Jack's father was a famous Aussie Rules footballer means it's a subject that jogs along pleasantly through the book.

There are one or two predictable bits, with Jack's new love interest. And you might feel, as I did, that Jack is really rather nave at times there are two key moments where you wonder how a bloke of his experience can act like that. But there's a neat twist towards the end, made plausible by Temple's rock-solid narrative and plotting. And there are a couple of very sinister baddies on Jack's case.

Temple's books often run the urban and small town settings side-by-side and feature heroes who are damaged in some way, but are determined to stamp out any corruption. Jack Irish and BAD DEBTS are no exception. This is one cracking good read and I can't wait for the rest of the series to appear.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, May 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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