Peter Temple is a master writer. His characters almost leap off the page. The descriptions are palpable, the segues, the flashbacks, the dialogues, are all top notch. And his way of edging into a flashback, then without your noticing it bringing you back, is something I don't often see. The first book of his that I read ("Truth") left me breathless. This one was good, but there was no shortness of breath here, and I even found myself skipping some delay-sections, towards the end. There are also a few loose ends in character relationships, some needless heroism that almost verges into cliche (in my opinion), one sex scene too much (it is good, but seems almost Reacher-like in its over-the-topness), and what (for me) was a downer: how it was wrapped up a bit too neatly at the end.
In other words, this is good, commercial fiction, whereas Temple's first book nosed into literary territory. Indeed, it won prizes for both literariness and mystery-- and justifiably so.
How did it happen?
At the risk of overstating my case, I would say that the author here fell in love with his characters and did not dare to hurt them. This, again in my opinion, is a mistake committed by many able writers that could otherwise transform their genre, but end up staying in it. The simple truth is that the more the characters hurt truly, the more the readers are drawn, and the more breathless they become. See the Iliad. See Cormac McCarthy (who did transcend his genre) in No Country for Old Men.
At any rate, even a so-so from Peter Temple is much better than top effort by most writers. I'll of course keep reading his books. Three and a half stars.