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Bad Debts by Peter Temple
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Bad Debts (1996)

by Peter Temple

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South African-born Australian Peter Temple's Melbourne-based crime novel features sometime lawyer and part-time debt collector and private investigator Jack Irish, and in this, the first in the Jack Irish series, he looks into the death of an ex-client who had turned up seeking his help. This novel involves murder, dodgy property dealings, and underage pornography, all with some high-level involvement, and it also contains sub-plots based around the horse racing industry and Jack's liking for furniture making. There is action aplenty, the plot is reasonably promising, intricate even, which I can like in a book, Jack is a humorous, even cynical character, whose racetrack associations and dealings one might consider bordering on dodgy. Unfortunately for me the racetrack aspect was one reason this book did not overly appeal to me, it is one sport I have little interest in and the emphasis given it in this book lessened my interest with every mention. Also (with due deference to my Australian friends), the preponderance of colloquial dialogue and slang I'm sorry to say had the same effect, I guess it is just overly strange to me, no fault of the writer, I'm just not used to it. I was also left with a 'couldn't care less' attitude insofar as the characters are concerned, they have no depth to them, Irish included. Oh dear. In saying all that, many opinions here and on Amazon differ to mine, so maybe you should read some of them also before deciding whether or not to read this book! ( )
  ebyrne41 | Jan 28, 2013 |
Set mainly in Melbourne, once a criminal lawyer, Jack Irish is now making his way out of a dark period of life that he drifted into after the death of his second wife who died at the hands of an unhappy client. Trying to deal with his pain, Jack drowned his sorrows in alcohol and became a collector of "serious debts," as well as a gambler betting on the ponies. He does some odd work verging on the shady for a couple of men in the horse racing business. But there's another side to Jack -- as a sort of therapy, he also helps a friend make furniture, finding a bit of peace and pride in his work, and he has a huge heart. He's a dad to daughter Claire. He tries to stay on the side of law and order, but there are moments when he sometimes has to cross over that border.

As the novel opens, Jack checks his answering machine to find a number of messages from a client, Danny McKillop, who Jack once defended in a hit and run accident. He pleads with Jack to meet him, but Jack doesn't remember him at the time and the last message was left a couple of days earlier. Now curious, Jack digs into the case files, where he discovers that McKillop had been accused of the death of Anne Jeppeson, a young activist some ten years earlier. McKillop had pleaded guilty after a witness positively ID'd him as the driver of the car. McKillop had pleaded guilty and received ten years for his crime. Now out, it seems that he really wants to talk to Jack. As Jack pokes around, he starts thinking that perhaps McKillop wasn't the one behind the wheel; little does he know that he is opening a veritable Pandora's box of an investigation, helped along by a gorgeous journalist named Linda Hillier. It isn't long until he discovers that someone is willing to kill to keep Jack from getting to the truth. In a story that is part hardboiled noir with added bits of action-packed conspiracy thriller, Jack has to navigate between bullets, explosions and a host of shady people to get to the truth. The problem is that Jack has no idea who to trust.

My first experience with Peter Temple was with his novel The Broken Shore, which I loved and which has much more of a literary feel to it than does Bad Debts. Having said that, Bad Debts really kept me on my toes and kept my brain engaged trying to figure out the 10 year-old mystery of Danny McKillop. And while I'm normally not a huge fan of the fast-paced variety of thriller/conspiracy novel, this one I liked, not only because of the writing in which Temple has crafted a very tightly-woven and controlled story despite the number of crazy twists and turns, but also because of the characters, especially, but not limited to, Jack himself. Rarely do I like a first series novel this much, but I was sucked in from the beginning and just couldn't let it go. ( )
  bcquinnsmom | Dec 27, 2012 |
Really enjoying the sparse, wry writing of Peter Temple. Read the prize-winning "The Broken Shore" last year and was hooked. This is the first in the "Jack Irish" series, so looking forward to working my way true them. Sometimes life is good. ( )
  sully5live | Oct 1, 2010 |
This is the first of the Jack Irish novels and well worth a read, if, like me, you enjoy good crime novels.

Temple is a notch above the average crime writer. His protagonist, Irish, is a suburban lawyer who dabbles in gambling/horses, loves football and works part-time as a cabinet makers apprentice. When he gets drawn into unsavoury events, he skillfully uses these talents to extricate himself and to do some good in the world. He does it larconically and humourously.

A light enjoyable read. If you are after 'deep and meaningful', look elsewhere. This is one to read between the mind-benders. ( )
  miss.folio | Mar 12, 2009 |
Crooked horses, crooked politicians, dodgy land deals ... With gold-toothed thugs threatening him with sub-machine guns and the corpses piling up, Jack Irish needs to find out what is going on and fast.

This is Temple's debut novel and the first in the Jack Irish series.

Irish is smart, witty and a dab hand in a fight with an empty champagne bottle. Dead wife, live daughter, he's a reformed binge drinker, an occasional cabinet-maker, an Aussie rules and gee-gees fanatic, and a part-time lawyer currently filling in the gaps between cases as a debt collector. Not a CD in sight you'll be relieved to know, but just occasionally (and not in front of his mates) he uses words like 'exculpatory', an ability no doubt due to his fondness for the odd 'Bolivian novelist' or two. But don't try looking them up – they're fictitious.

After a hard day out of the office, Irish picks up, too late, a phone message from an old client, Danny McKillop, just out of jail after serving a term for hit-and-run driving. McKillop is now dead, shot whilst acting suspiciously in a pub car-park by a local policeman – the pub where that night Irish should have met him. Seems also that, for various reasons, McKillop did not get the full benefit of Jack's legal training in the hit-and-run case. Irish, whilst not above the odd horse-racing scam, responds as a true knight errant should.

Chandler territory then, but this is Chandler on speed, crackling with wit, ripe language in every sense of the term, and with a sharp eye for hypocrisy and political shennanigans. The plot is a little over-signposted, so that it's more a howdoesheget'em than a whodunnit, but it is none the worse for that. Just relish the mechanics and most of all the cast of characters assembled for our delight, particularly the deadpan, cynical wit of Jack's horse-racing buddies, Cam and Harry.

As you might expect, Irish wraps the case, and then, not anti-climactically, goes horse-racing. Man's got to get his priorities right. Get yours right and buy this book. ( )
1 vote Jawin | Mar 8, 2009 |
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For Anita and Nicholas: true believers
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I found Edward Dollery, age 47, defrocked accountant, big spender and dishonest person, living in a house rented in the name of Carol Pick.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038566303X, Paperback)

Introducing Australia’s most acclaimed crime-thriller writer to North American audiences with his first two books in his award-winning Jack Irish series.

A phone message from ex-client Danny McKillop doesn’t ring any bells for Jack Irish. Life is hard enough without having to dredge up old problems: His beloved football team continues to lose, the odds on his latest plunge at the track seem far too long, and he’s still cooking for one. When Danny turns up dead, Jack is forced to take a walk back into the dark and dangerous past.

With suspenseful prose and black humor, Peter Temple builds an unforgettable character in Jack Irish and brings the reader on a journey that is as intelligent as it is exciting.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:36 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"A phone message from ex-client Danny McKillop doesn't ring any bells for Jack Irish. Life is hard enough without having to dredge up old problems: His beloved football team continues to lose, the odds on his latest plunge at the track seem far too long, and he's still cooking for one. When Danny turns up dead, Jack is forced to take a walk back into the dark and dangerous past."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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Editions: 1877008729, 1921758813

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