Review: An Iron Rose, by Peter Temple

Hard-boiled thriller with an Australian accent
An Iron Rose, by Peter Temple
Review published in the Sunday Business Post, May 27, 2007 – Reviewed by Alex Meehan

It’s not often you come across a detective novel set in Melbourne, and rarer still that it’s quite so good as Peter Temple’s An Iron Rose. When MacArthur John Faraday’s best friend Ned is found hanged, the police and surrounding community make the reasonable assumption he committed suicide. But ex-cop turned blacksmith Faraday is far from convinced, and nagging doubts make him think all is not as it seems, and if it wasn’t suicide, then it must have been murder.bu000521.jpg

Faraday has thrown in his big city ways, moved to the country and opened a forge. He sinks pints in the local pub, chats to the locals and even togs out for the local footie team, but leaving behind his dark and violent past as a detective senior sergeant in the Australian Federal Police is not as easy as all that.

Clearing out Ned’s house after the funeral, Faraday discovers press clippings from the 1980s about the skeleton of a girl found down an abandoned mine shaft. Why is Ned concerned and what drew him to repeatedly visit the Kinross Hall detention centre for juvenile girls?

Is it possible that Ned himself may have been responsible for string of killings of teenage girls? As Faraday progresses through his investigation, more murders occur, this time to people he’s interviewed. The story heats up as Faraday sets out to find the truth and draws sinister forces down on himself in the process.

An Iron Rose is a stylish thriller written in the first person and chock full of local Australian colour. The characters speak in gruff, truncated sentences and are fond of black humour – they play out their roles in a harsh environment with a worldly sense of irreverence. This is an accomplished novel from a writer who is a name to be reckoned with in his home country.

A heavyweight crime writer, Peter Temple is an ex-journalist who occupies an Ian Rankinesque position in the Australian fiction charts. He is best known for his series of detective novels featuring disgraced lawyer and gambling addict Jack Irish and has won a record five Ned Kelly awards for excellence in Australian crime writing.

An Iron Rose is a time-out for him, a standalone crime thriller separate from the franchise that has made him a household name down under. Temple’s success is based on the simple premise that Australia has its own people, vernacular language, culture and personality, so why shouldn’t that be reflected in its fiction? Iron Rose features well drawn characters in atypical settings that challenge the genre well.

Interestingly, this book was first published in 1998, but is only now available in this part of the world. Despite the size of the Australian market, it has been historically difficult for successful authors to break out and find audiences in Europe and the US.

Publishers have apparently felt that Australian slang and culture would be too difficult for audiences used to US and British-based detectives to take to heart. Based on An Iron Rose, that may soon be a myth exploded. Just in time for the summer season, this is an ideal beach or poolside read – it’s engaging, entertaining and interesting without requiring too much from the reader.

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