Gun Control is the fortieth outing for Peter Corris's famous detective Cliff Hardy. And while Cliff is showing his age, Corris shows that he can still be as tough and ornery as always. The reader’s familiarity with Cliff is both a strength and a weakness of the series now. There is little here that can surprise, but it is always refreshing to check in with Cliff. Still drinking down his heart medication with red wine, still using his boxing skills when he gets the chance and still an eye for the ladies.
Gun Control is classic noir. It opens with an untrustworthy, but wealthy, client asking Cliff to find out who supplied the gun that his son used to commit suicide. From the outset Cliff knows he is not in possession of the whole truth and this is brought home when he quickly becomes a target for the Gun Control Unit, a group of possibly dodgy police. When his path then crosses with a group of bikies things become even more complex for Cliff.
Gun Control has everything we have come to expect from Corris – real feeling descriptions of Sydney and its surrounds (Cliff spends some time in the Blue Mountains this time), comment on some current social issues, some interesting characters, and a mystery that carefully unfolds as Cliff does what he does best – poke every hornet nest that he finds. But while this is all true it almost makes Gun Control too comfortable. Cliff’s narrative voice is so solid and so familiar that the surprises don’t feel as surprising as they should, the threat never feels all that threatening.
Cliff Hardy is the original Sydney detective, a true stalwart of Australian crime and always delivers a great read. And Corris remains a master of the PI noir style – pithy descriptions, sardonic observations, dodgy characters and a cracking mystery. But Cliff’s age is starting to show and he needs to be careful or he’ll be eclipsed by all of the young whippersnappers coming on to the Australian crime scene.