Peter Temple

In The Evil Day

(‘Identity Theory’ in US edition)

The only other book I’ve read of Temple’s is ‘The Broken Shore’, so I was not surprised to find a lead character deeply formed by previous trauma, the details of which are only gradually filled in, often only with hints. It worked for him then, and it works again here, but I wonder if it will if I find it in the next book of his I read. And there will be a next book – he’s a nice discovery a friend of mine made (and I hope he keeps lending me more books!).

There are other similarities, but not in the sense of Temple copying himself. We still get the spare writing, complementing these taciturn, worldly characters, and you don’t feel insulted by the stupidity of the dialogue or exchanges. There’s also again the wonderfully dark mood (cf. Hammett and Chandler) appropriate to the cold business of bounty hunting (but from the distance of a computer terminal), which is sustained, but also effectively punctuated by well-paced moments of humour, warmth, and friendship.

However this is almost an entirely different genre to ‘The Broken Shore’, which largely stays in a small rural Australian town, and has only one or two action scenes. ‘In the Evil Day’ is consciously a thriller, diving headlong into many of the conventions: sophisticated European locations; state of the art IT and experts; presidential level conspiracy; assassins; ex-soldier mercenaries; chases; gunfights; build to climactic fight scene – just to name a few. It’s almost too much, too conventional, but there’s pleasure to be had in someone using these standard things well for a change. He keeps the pages turning, but manages some greater character development along the way.

But what on earth is the deal with the women in this book?? More particularly the two daydream angels that nothing less than miraculously turn up to save the lives of our major and minor heroes, displaying completely inexplicable martial and weapons skills, breathtakingly implausible instant utter sexual and lifelong commitment, and unabashed deus ex machina timing. Is Temple having a laugh?

July 2010