Before everything comes across just a bit gushy, there was a point somewhere in the middle of the Cliff Hardy series where I seriously lost interest. Whilst there are some elements of the books that are always going to be the same, somehow the sameness became very obvious, there was something slightly flat about the storylines and, to this reader at least, nothing much engaged my interest. I never totally gave up reading the series, but most definitely didn't shove things aside as each new book arrived.
And then, a few years ago, things changed. Around the time that Cliff started to really get in trouble, to lose his licence for real, as his health took a downward turn, somewhere in there, the series got it's fire back. Sure there's still the same basic elements making up the stories, yet somehow or other there's something very engaging happening again. Maybe it's got something to do with some of the aspects of Cliff's life catching up a bit with current day activities - a mobile phone and even a computer have even made a showing in Cliff's life. Maybe it's also that somehow Cliff is now starting to show just the slightest glimpse of aging, that's making the series somehow progress, change, move on just a little.
True fans, however, do not need to worry that Cliff is suddenly going to act his age, get himself a nice little runaround, and leap too heavily into the technology age - a mobile phone and office computer do not, a Private Detective, change that much. The point of COMEBACK is that Cliff is back, he's got his licence back, he's back working as a PI (albeit more because he needs the money and less because of any overt great desire to return to his old life), and he's out and about, old Ford and all, working the mean streets, getting roughed up just a bit and solving the puzzle.
COMEBACK is the story of Cliff's investigation into the death of actor Bobby Forrest. The only love interest in sight is Bobby's girlfriend, and the mystery is why Bobby died and how you're going to work out where one white Commodore came from in a sea of white Commodores.
The plot of this book is actually really good, and whilst there's still a bit of the beaten and still functioning PI stuff going on, all in all, Cliff's investigation style seems to have gotten a bit cunning with age (less prodding of the bear and more teasing it from a distance if you like).
I particularly enjoyed Hardy's "observation" about modern day crime fiction "padded, as a lot of novels are now. I don't know why." One thing you can never accuse a Cliff Hardy novel of is padding! They are sparse, entertaining, tight little capsules of Cliff the Private Detective working the mean streets of Sydney, and have always been thus.
Whilst I'd normally confess to having very little interest in following traditions, the over Christmas read of the latest Cliff Hardy instalment has become... let's call it a rather addictive habit. COMEBACK is really continuing the fantastic resurgence in this Australian crime fiction stalwart.