Dead Point is the third Jack Irish novel by Peter Temple. It is brilliant. Although I've very much enjoyed every book I've so far read by this author, in this one he joins the pantheon, in my opinion. Crime fiction does not come any better than this.
As the book opens, Jack and his racing "syndicate" suffer a double loss: their horse is injured so can't finish the race; and Cynthia, one of the team, has been mugged while collecting on the winnings from the previous outing. Jack and Cam swear to find the culprit.
Another of Jack's low-life associates, Cyril Wootton (of whom Jack has suspicions in the Cynthia affair), hires him to find Robbie Colbourne, a local barman who has been missing for some time. Wootton's client is a Judge, Colin Loder, and although Jack doesn't entirely buy Loder's reasons for wanting to find Robbie, he is unexpectedly charmed by Loder calling him a "colleague".
Essentially, the book tells the story of these two cases. Jack is depressed by the Melbourne winter, his love-life is not going well and change is all around him. Even the footy group are wavering in their support of their Fitzroy substitute team. And Charlie Taub, the cabinet maker for whom Jack works, is away visting his extended family for a suspiciously long time, leaving Jack to supervise the installation of a beautiful library that he and Taub have made for Mrs Purbrick, a rich customer with high-society connections.
I read this book slowly for three reasons: one, because of the rich, detailed plot, one's attention cannot wander; every paragraph contains information that might be relevant. Two, the quality of the writing is breathtakingly superb. And third, the evocation of a lost and changing world is completely involving. Jack's internal thoughts and emotions about the city, the people he meets, the world, women: it is all just perfect. The humour, his network of shady but charming rogues, various samidzat policemen, and the people Jack encounters on his search for the missing man, together create a unique and almost mesmerizing whole.
A final strength of this book is that the denouement is less dramatic than in previous novels, and hence more believable. Political machinations are involved as usual, pots of money and contracts (a leisure resort hangs like a miasma over the story), but passions are at the root here, which makes this book seem more rounded than the previous installments, and mean that events don't spiral out of control of believablity.
If you haven't yet read Peter Temple, you have a total delight in store. If you have, you will be like me and not able to bear to wait for the next Jack Irish book, Shooting Star (UK publication September).
I would like to thank Quercus for my copy of this book.