‘Truth’ by Peter Temple

9781921656620Winner of the 2010 Miles Franklin Award, Truth is a multi-layered crime novel, a psychological mapping and a fine yarn rolled into its 387 pages.

Head of Victorian Homicide, Inspector Stephen Villani, is confronted with the highly sensitive murder of a young woman in the new state-of-the-art Prosilio apartment building in Central Melbourne. So new, few residents have moved in to the exclusive block.

Pressure is immediately placed on Villani to keep the death quiet – the conglomerate of owners has direct access to the very top of state politics. There’s millions of dollars involved and scandal must be avoided at all cost, especially in the election year.

But Villani is not simply a yes man. Whilst he can initially prevent the media from talking ‘murder’, he has no intention of lying low simply because a promotion carrot has been dangled – or the inverse threat to his position should he ignore ‘friendly advice’ from his superiors.

As the state burns, taking place as it does during the sweltering heat and 2009 bushfires of Black Saturday, Villani is determined to discover the truth and discover the connection (if any) with the recent gruesome deaths of the violent Ribaric brothers.

Truth is no simple crime novel with a linear narrative dotted with black and white characters. Multi-layered, it is as much the story of Villani attempting to understand his failure as a husband, father and family man. His relationship with his wife is virtually non-existent; his youngest daughter is a drug addict. But his present family life is balanced by Villani’s family history as a child – a missing mother and a constantly absent father resulted in Stephen, as the eldest, raising his two brothers.

But Truth is also about political games as colleagues both above and below jostle and manoeuvre as Election Day looms.

It’s fast-paced as Villani pushes his team to discover the truth. Mistakes are made, lucky breaks are few and far between – but certainly grabbed with both hands when they present themselves. But it’s never too long before someone further up the food chain summarily summons the inspector to give an update. And they’re not always happy with the direction the investigation is going.

Truth is not an easy read. It’s a cracking story with sparkling, gritty dialogue. But, with the plethora of present and former colleagues, superiors, politicians and journalists, it can become increasingly confusing as to just who is who.

It is, however, the character of Stephen Villani who is most memorable. He is everyman, not infallible but certainly fair, a dedication and love for justice and his job that has cost him (like most of his colleagues) his family.

South African-born, Victoria-based, former journalist Peter Temple was presented with the 2010 Miles Franklin Award for Truth. He is no stranger to prizes, having collected five Ned Kelly awards since his first novel, Bad Debts, was published in 1997 alongside the Duncan Lowrie Dagger and Colin Roderick Award for The Broken Shore.

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