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Black Tide by Peter Temple

From the Dustjacket
Jack Irish - lawyer, gambler, part-time cabinetmaker, finder of missing people - is recovering from a foray into the criminal underworld when he agrees to look for the son of an old workmate of his father's.
It's an offer he soon has cause to regret, as the trail of Gary Connors leads him into the world of Steven Levesque, millionaire and political kingmaker. The more Jack learns about Levesque's powerful corporation, the more convinced he becomes that at its herat lies a secret.
What he's destined to find is just how deadly that secret is...
Black Tide takes us back into the brilliantly evoked world of Jack Irish, with its pubs, racetracks and Australian football - not to mention intrigue, corruption and violence.
Publisher : Text Publishing
First published : 1998
ISBN : 1920885137
No. Pages : 311 pages
My Review
Jack Irish returns in a second brooding thriller in Black Tide following on from his introduction in Bad Debts. Author Peter Temple has created in Irish a rather unorthodox protagonist with many irons in the fire, some of them legal, and an unusual sideline or two to help keep him sane. It's rare to come across a criminal lawyer who spends his down time sweating it out in a cabinet-maker's workshop but that's Jack Irish for you.

When he's not working in his capacity as a lawyer or perfecting his dovetail joints, he can also be found in the company of Harry Strang taking part in the planning of the next big plunge at the horse races. Failing that he'll be down at the local pub lamenting the demise of the Fitzroy Football Club with his fellow faithful supporters.

The 2nd Jack Irish book finds Jack alone but happy and busy. The Melbourne-based criminal lawyer is just finishing up a case in which he has successfully defended a known criminal, winning his case via one of the many loopholes in the system that causes lawyers to rejoice and the rest of us to despair.

Into his office walks Des Connors, an old friend of Jack's father who is now looking for his son, Gary. But it's not out of concern for Gary's safety that Des wants him found, it's because Gary took $60,000 from his father before he disappeared. Sensing a chance to grasp at a link with his own dead father, no matter how tenuous that may actually be, jack takes the job.

Jack's search for Gary Connors begins normally enough with the full expectation being that he had taken his father's money and disappeared by his own free will. A closer examination reveals that perhaps this scenario isn't quite as simple as it first looks and that there is a lot more at stake than a mere $60,000.

With a natural ability to unwittingly stir up hornets nests, Jack finds himself becoming embroiled in a web of intrigue that stretches across international boundaries. He senses rather than actually observes that he is being shadowed and then when the attempts on his life begin, the mood is ratcheted up to whole new level of desperation.

As Jack Irish points out at one stage: "It crossed my mind, not for the first time, that the pursuit of Gary Connors was getting completely out of hand."

Indeed. Not prone to hyperbole is our man Jack.

Black Tide is a story that continually grows in complexity with an ever-increasing number of characters introduced as the plot thickens to porridge-like proportions. The interconnections become tenuous and many of the characters are merely names thrown into the mix, making it very difficult to grasp and remember the relationships and their place in the drama that was unfolding. Consequently I felt lost at times.

From a hunt for a missing person we venture into a money laundering ring on a grand scale before attracting the attention of at least two groups of shady characters, at least one group of which may or may not have been working for the Federal Government. One thing is for sure, Jack Irish sets himself up as a major target, with the fear being that he has learned more than is good for him. The only satisfactory result of all concerned (apart from Jack, of course) is to remove him from the scene.

Black Tide is a slowly paced, methodical hunt for a missing man, gradually building in intensity and intrigue. Although littered with highly charged life threatening moments, I felt the story hit a flat spot around halfway through when the action gave way to an almost overwhelming amount of conjecture and we started to drift along aimlessly.

As with the first book in the series, Bad Debts, it was during these down spots in the story that we would get what would amount to a time-out. This came in the form of an impending betting plunge on a little-known horse from country Victoria. The fascinating process of trialling the horse, setting the horse and orchestrating a controlled method of laying the bets was refreshing, yet carried a tension of a completely different intensity. It was an interesting diversion to kick-start the story again and also provided a second adrenaline-charged ending after the main investigation was resolved.

This is a story that requires your complete attention if you are going to keep up with what I consider a convoluted plot. Fortunately, the characters are easy to like and relate to as they meet for a quiet beer in the local pub, discussing the sorry state of their football team. The down to earth qualities of Jack Irish makes him a protagonist to follow and cheer for.


Read more about Peter Temple here

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