Born in Sydney in 1917, Jon Stephen Cleary, left school at 14 and worked at a variety of jobs before joining the Army in 1940. He served in the Middle East and New Guinea, during which time he started to write seriously, and by the war's end he had published several short stories in magazines. His first novel, You Can't See Round Corners, was published in 1947, and won the second prize in The Sydney Morning Herald's novel contest. It was later made into a television serial and then into a feature film. Cleary worked as a journalist in London and New York from 1948-1951. It was in 1951 that his most well known book, The Sundowners, was published. It was later made into a successful movie. Cleary has been a prolific writer, having published more than 50 books. The first Inspector Scobie Malone novel appeared in 1966, and there are now 20 books in the series. Degrees of Connection won the 2004 Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel and is the final in the Scobie Malone series. In 1995 Cleary was awarded the Inaugural Ned Kelly Award for his lifetime contribution to crime fiction in Australia.
In the heat of an Australian summer, Inspector Scobie Malone of the New South Wales police finds the body of a promising informer, Scungy Grime, floating facedown in his family's backyard swimming pool. Scobie is investigating Sydney's major drug-dealing operation, and Grime's murder is a clear warning. Malone's family is put under police protection - a nightmare for Scobie, who had always been able to separate his professional obligations from his home life. But Scobie is determined not to be frightened off the job and leads the search for the murderer.
Scungy Grime turns out to be only the first victim of an innovative killer who injects his victims with curare. The trail leads in many directions: to Grime's former boss, retired big-time criminal Jack Aldwych; to Aldwych's son, Junior, who is using his father's ill-gotten fortune to build a legitimate business empire; to Junior's unlikely girl friend, Janis, a tough-nut social worker who counsels drug addicts; and to the original target, Sydney's drug king, Danny Pelong, who is annoyed because an unknown newcomer is muscling in on his patch. The case before Malone is baffling. Worried as he is for his family's safety, distracted by his partner's troublesome love life, with the bite of economic recession casting gloom, this dark summer seems endless - until a vital clue appears, and the case begins to unravel.