‘The godfather of Australian crime fiction’
One case still haunts Hardy
Legendary PI Cliff Hardy has reached an age when the obituaries have become part of his reading, and one triggers his memory of a case in the late 1980s. Back then Sydney was awash with colourful characters, and Cliff is reminded of a case involving 'Ten-Pound Pom' Barry Bartlett and racing identity and investor Sir Keith Mountjoy.
Bartlett, a former rugby league player and boxing manager, then a prosperous property developer, had hired Hardy to check on the bona fides of young Ronny Saunders, newly arrived from England, and claiming to be Bartlett's son from an early failed marriage. The job brought Hardy into contact with Richard Keppler, head of the no-rules Botany Security Systems, Bronwen Marr, an undercover AFP operative, and sworn adversary Des O'Malley.
At a time when corporate capitalism was running riot, an embattled Hardy searched for leads - was Ronny Saunders a pawn in a game involving big oil and fraud on an international scale? Two murders raise the stakes and with the sinister figure of Lady Betty Lee Mountjoy pulling the strings, it was odds against a happy outcome.
Ned Kelly Award winner Corris's 41st book featuring Australian PI Cliff Hardy (after 2015's Gun Control) doesn't pull its punches. The death of former client Barry Bartlett prompts Hardy to reminisce to his grown daughter, Megan, about his work for Barry some years earlier. In a flashback, Barry, a crooked Sydney businessman who has somehow managed to stay out of prison for more than 25 years, is visited by a young man claiming to be the son, Ronald, whom he hasn't seen for decades. As Ronald has no proof to back up his claim, Barry, a lonely man who's eager to believe him, asks Hardy to investigate. Before the detective can get much traction on the assignment, Ronald disappears, Barry suffers a stroke, and the case eventually turns into a murder inquiry with broad implications. Hardy doesn't shy away from using violence, and Corris doesn't hesitate to present the consequences of that proclivity. The author's effective humanizing of his sometimes-brutish lead makes Hardy a believable character who engages the reader's sympathies.