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Monday, June 18, 2007

Review : Appeal Denied by Peter Corris

Title : Appeal Denied

Author : Peter Corris
Publisher : Allen & Unwin
Date Published : 2007
ISBN-13 : 9781741750966
Sub-Genre : Detective
Protagonist : Cliff Hardy

The many cases in which Cliff Hardy has had to tread the fine line between legal and illegal have finally caught up with the Sydney detective. Appeal Denied is the 31st book in Peter Corris’ popular hardboiled detective series but the times are a-changing and Cliff’s days look to be numbered.

The police have been looking for opportunities to take Hardy’s licence and it has finally happened with an appeal to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal failing. He is left to ponder his life ahead with no job, no prospects and the bills continuing to arrive.

Cliff Hardy has never had any dealings with the Northern Crime Unit based in Sydney but he is less than impressed with the murder investigation they are running, an investigation that he has a personal stake in. Having lost his enquiry licence he’s not supposed to engage in any official investigative work but there is simply no way he is going to sit idly by and let a killer get clean away.

With the help of media personality and investigative reporter Lee Townsend he begins poking around and it doesn’t take long for the whiff of police corruption to start wafting out. Townsend then introduces Hardy to Detective Constable Jane Farrow who tells him of a long and sordid history of extortion and payoffs that have been commonplace in the day to day operation of the Northern Crime Unit. And the taint goes right up to the top.

Cliff is a man possessed, stoked with rage and desperate to unleash his anger on someone. He has been cut loose with nothing to get in his way and no reason to spend time at home or at his office. The prospect of possibly being hunted by dirty cops also keeps him on the move and this ensures that his unofficial investigation unfolds quickly.

Trust is a big problem for Hardy during this case, not knowing whether there is anyone he can rely on. First he meets Detective Sergeant Colin Williams, lead officer on the murder case and he seems like an honest cop but is quickly removed from the murder inquiry. The cops who replace him are definitely bent. Lee Townsend could be sincere in his quest to uncover the suspected police corruption or maybe he just senses a big story. As for Detective Constable Jane Farrow, Cliff senses something’s not quite right about her but just can’t put his finger on exactly what it is.

The style of Peter Corris is essentially economical with a lean, clear emphasis on the plot, allowing the mood to be relayed to us through Cliff Hardy’s state of mind. It’s obvious that events are beginning to take their toll on Hardy with more frequent reflection on the changes in his life and a questioning of his best way forward from here. He has always been an independent, lonely character but there is an even greater impression of a desire by him to move on.

Hardy is as dogged as ever and as willing to ignore all warnings to quit as he ever has been. In fact, I get the feeling he wouldn’t believe he was doing his job properly if he didn’t get all those warnings and didn’t see people grit their teeth in anger after he has hit them with a comment designed specifically to needle.

His instincts are sharp, he still has friends in high places and he still gets results sailing perilously close to the wrong side of the law. Appeal Denied is a typically brisk detective novel that displays all of the ballsy determination, great planning and seat of the pants execution by its protagonist. There is a marked difference in that the story is tinged with far grater emotion than you usually see from a Cliff Hardy mystery.

For more reviews of Australian crime and mystery novels, visit the Australian Crime Fiction Database.

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