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.
The body of Japanese industrialist Kenji Sagawa was found in one of his firm's own threshing machines at the cotton gin that had brought prosperity, but also tension, to the little country town of Collamundra. When local police make no headway in the search for the killer, Inspector Scobie Malone is glad to be called down from Sydney - his family are staying with friends in Collamundra.
But Scobie quickly finds this is far from a working holiday. The locals make it clear they resent his presence as his enquiries cut through the easygoing corruption of the establishment. He is drawn into local racial conflict when a lone Aboriginal cop becomes a focus for stresses on both sides. Most of all Scobie becomes osessed by the unsolved murder, seventeen years before, of the wife of one of Collamundra's most prominent citizens.
As the list of suspects grows, and Collamundra fills with strangers arriving for the annual horseracing cup, tensions escalate. Then a surprise discovery slots the pieces of jigsaw suddenly into place.