‘Cliff Hardy, I heard you’d retired.’ Marcia had the voice all brothel receptionist have – smooth, reassuring, comforting, designed to put the punters at their ease.
‘I’m making a comeback. Is Ruby available?’
Comeback (Allen & Unwin, 2011) is the 37th book in the outstanding Cliff Hardy series (if you count the two short story collections) and continues the rocky life of the Sydney-based private detective. No matter what type of setback is placed in his way, whether it be loss of partners, severe medical conditions or the loss of his licence, Cliff manages to continue to prove that he is the ultimate survivor and struggles on in typical gritty style.
In recent times Cliff Hardy has been somewhat at a loss to decide what to do with himself thanks to the loss of his private inquiry agent’s licence. But a recent High Court ruling has found that life bans are unconstitutional which provides Cliff with the motivation he needs to reapply for his licence and, with a little bit of help from old friend and lawyer Viv Garner, quickly sets up his practice in a new office and with a rekindled outlook.
The first case in the new practice involves a young actor, Bobby Forrest, who wants to hire Hardy because he believes he is the victim of a stalker. He is unable to identify the stalker and this intrigues Hardy enough for him to take the case.
I’d had the house a long time, ever since my marriage to Cyn, and it was imbued with memories, some bad, mostly good. I’d made love there, spilt blood and had some of my own spilt. There’s been times when I was flush with money and other times, like now, when funds were low. I knew I should find a way to shake all this loose and go somewhere else, but I was back in business and somehow that seemed to make keeping the house and the memories all the more important.
Although Hardy diligently follows Forrest from place to place to get a handle on who is stalker might
be, he is unprepared for the attack when it comes. He is left with a dead client, a police detective who is particularly unimpressed and a burning need to finish his investigation. The case that started out as a protection gig develops into a hunt for a murderer.
What Hardy discovers is that the case was more complex than he was first led to believe. He has to work his way through the jealous love triangle and unravel the tangle of rage, disappointment and acts of revenge before he can move on to working out who might have wanted to kill Bobby Forrest.
Hardy is relentless, which is the quality that has made him such an enduringly popular character. He is undeterred by the fact that his case appears to flounder and change perspective and, if anything, finds himself more galvanised into action. This is the Cliff Hardy that keeps the readers coming back for more.
I wasn’t sleeping well. A matter of loneliness and a feeling that I wasn’t accomplishing as much as I should. So I was happy about making an early start. They say everyone is working longer hours these days and I assumed it applied to people in the security business, especially senior people if they wanted to stay senior. And why not me as well?
What is made obvious as Comeback unfolds is that Cliff Hardy is back and ready to continue on for quite a few more cases yet. He has been able to adapt to the modern world with the online presence and modern technologies required to survive. His old-fashioned detective skills are still relevant and equip him with the arsenal to get the job done.
Most importantly, he still has the passion and the fire to perform strongly and this is not only important for him as a character but is also important for the reader because it ensures that Cliff Hardy remains believable.
There is a shift in pace in the way Comeback unfolds and it is more methodical in the way in which Hardy goes about his investigations. Put this down to his advancing age, but also to the years of experience he has had in his job. Cliff can still dish out the punishment but he is also taking his knocks and has to spend more time in the gym to keep himself fit. The medication that he is taking for his heart trouble (Deep Water) highlights the fact that this is a guy dealing with real life issues and just trying to do his job to scratch out a living the best way he knows how.
Find a listing of the entire Cliff Hardy series as well as other works by visiting the Peter Corris page at Crime Down Under. Get all of the official news and information by checking out the Peter Corris website.