Cliff's back - Lazarus with a quadruple bypass no less. He's resigned to never getting his licence back and his agency is now in the hands of his daughter Megan and her PI boyfriend. He still misses Lily, and he's still driving "a" trusty Falcon, and he's no longer so pressed for money.
More importantly, he's lucky to be alive.
Recovering from a quadruple bypass has it's own challenges - the exercise requirements, the pills that have to be taken for the rest of your life, the limitations that the awareness of mortality places on you, and there are glimpses, possibly for the first time ever, of Hardy's mortality in DEEP WATER. Mind you, the reader can't help but pause to consider the author's own brush with heart problems (Corris has also not so long ago undergone a quadruple bypass). In DEEP WATER Cliff returns as one of those perennial fictional heroes, sure if you paid close attention to his life's history, he's "in theory" well into his seventies by now, but if you don't look too closely then you're never going to know. There is more than just some signs of physical frailty about Cliff in this book, there's something obviously reflective about him as well - he isn't going to forget the death of Lily, he looks back at the death of his ex-wife Cynthia, and then there is his relationship building with Megan, the daughter who, for so many years, he didn't know existed. But this is Cliff we're talking about and there is only so much reflection and physical care that you can take, and he's not above a beeline for the closest cold beer, a seriously good meal and a fragile woman, destined to love and leave him, alone again.
Investigating the disappearance of Henry McKinley is the perfect vehicle for Cliff's return - whilst Megan and her boyfriend Hank are the official component, Cliff is able to dig around into the background of McKinley, whose better than good persona rapidly slips away. Working unofficially does have its downside, and there is a corrupt cop who has been waiting for a chance to have a go at Cliff for many years. As the investigation gets closer to the mark corruption, greed, money and sex all line up as possible motivations.
Then right at the end, despite all of Cliff's health problems, Corris cannot resist one more bit of personal jeopardy and one more personal disappointment just to give Cliff something to chew on for the future.
DEEP WATER is the 34th Cliff Hardy book, the last few really have dealt with a major transition in Cliff's life as he loses his lover, his licence and this time - very nearly his life. Mind you, Cliff dying of a heart attack on the pier in San Diego would have been profoundly distressing - if he has to go, he has to go in the back streets of Glebe, preferably with a beer in hand (not that there's any particular hint that he's on his way I might add). But there is definitely a feeling of further transition in DEEP WATER. Let's hope Cliff isn't going to slip quietly into the role of the voice of experience and wisdom. Here's hoping for a bit more kicking and screaming along the way.