Cliff Hardy is the kind of man you would like to have in your repertoire of acquaintances. He’d be the one you’d go to when an issue of moral ambiguity arose, like when the people next door keep playing their music too loud and too late and ignore polite requests to desist but you are too worried about repercussions to complain to the police. Somehow, in a way you don’t really want to know, he would persuade them to stop. Indeed, they might even nod a faux friendly hello to you should you meet in the street or when you drop off the packages which the postie keeps leaving on your doorstep because he won’t set foot on their drive ever since he had a run-in with your neighbour’s Pitbull.
Hardy, Peter Corris’s Aussie iconic private eye, has returned in his 39th book, Silent Kill which was released just after we’d stopped welcoming in 2014. It’s been a lean period for Hardy work wise and he is persuaded to sign on for what seems an easy gig. He’s to be the bodyguard for Rory O’Hara, a former crusading journalist turned independent member of Parliament who, after acquiring considerable personal wealth, becomes what he called a “self-funded righter of society’s wrongs.” The problem is, not everyone shares O’Hara’s views on what constitutes a “wrong” and are prepared to use force to emphasise their point of view.
O’Hara has only just got out of hospital after a beating when he sets off on the tour, promising more revelations. But Hardy has underestimated the job, and he’s soon enmeshed in a death and a kidnapping. “That was the end of the Rory O’Hara tour and his high-visibility radical campaign.”
Not that he’s out of a job for long. He is hired by the brother of the murder victim to look into her death and Hardy discovers that everyone in O’Hara’s inner circle seems to have their own agenda and little is what it originally seemed. His investigations take him across the country from seedy Sydney pubs to a remote hideaway outside Darwin with a short side-trip to the buttoned-up bureaucracy of Canberra. His private life is as complicated as ever. Newly-reconciled with his daughter he has just seen his “live apart” girlfriend off to a new job in America. Will the investigation bring new romance?
Hardy shares that slightly morose, hang-dog demeanour and dishevelled appearance that make Ian Rankin’s Rebus and Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko so appealing as characters. And like Rebus and Renko, the police hierarchy may not approve of his methods but they respect his ability to achieve results and he’s never short of a helpful contact in the lower ranks. There’s something reassuringly old-fashioned about Corris’s style but the plot is nicely up-to-date including a rogue intelligence agent. Hardy fans will love Silent Kill and for those who haven’t yet read Corris’s books, Hardy’s the kind of guy you’ll be pleased to have around.
Silent Kill is published by Allen & Unwin.