Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Done: "Bad Debts" by Peter Temple

Done: Bad Debts by Peter Temple, 1996 (originally) but 2005 for this copy, 1596921293.

Pretty damn good.  I tracked this down after a FFB entry for another Temple novel, White Dog, got me remembering Temple.  I commented as much and was recommended Bad Debts as the first in this series featuring lawyer Jack Irish.

Irish is a small time lawyer, debt collector, and gambler in Melbourne, Australia.  Irish abandoned his successful criminal defense practice for booze when a former client murdered Irish's wife.  Irish has mostly dried out and is now in his forties, a Vietnam vet, has one daughter living north in Cairns, a sister in the wealthy suburbs, and a dead father who was a beloved Aussie Rules footballer for Fitzroy.

Irish gets a call from a past client asking for help.  Irish was a blackout drunk when he defended the guy on a drunk driving manslaughter charge.  Irish feels guilty for not giving the guy a proper defense.  The guy ends up dead, shot by police in a parking lot outside a bar.  Irish starts digging.

Turns out the open and shut case against the guy may have been a frame-up.  The dead pedestrian was an activist looking to block an expensive development.  Irish starts asking questions.  Irish is followed by policeman-like dudes and warned away.  Policeman-like dudes are asking around to the same people as Irish.

Irish also helps out a big-time horse expert and gambler to place multiple bets on races.  They bets are not cheats.  Not really.  The gambler just knows horses and jockeys and has a group of people to place the bets, they are not throwing races.

More things happen.  Threats.  A quick trip to Perth.  Beer.  Wine.  Furniture making.  Sex with a lady journalist.  More sex.  More beer.  Dead people. Mysterious happenings.  Big time corruption.  Big time money.  Irish escapes death and makes a ton of dough on a horse race.

1.  The plot does not make perfect sense.  The hit-and-run murder set-up seems a bit of a stretch.  The reason for the murder was a real estate deal worth a few million bucks.  Sure, that's enough for prominent people to have someone killed.  I suppose.  So, why add in the underaged sex ring angle at the very end?
2.  Local Melbourne love with restaurants, streets, local history, and sports rivalry.
3.  I spent a relatively short time in Perth and loved it.  Irish flies out to try and track down a witness and does not much like it there.  The West Coast Eagles won the Aussie Rules championship when I was there in 1992 and even took in a game.  Irish is disdainful of the club.
4.  I cannot easily explain why I liked the novel so much.  But, I did.
5.  Holden cars.

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