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.
A nun is found murdered on the steps of the Quality Couch, Sydney's most expensive house of ill repute. She was Sister Mary Magdalene, an idealistic young woman who previously had worked at a mission in Nicaragua. Detective Inspector Scobie Malone, that most human of cops, picks up the trail when he discovers that her real name was Teresa Hourigan -- the illegitimate granddaughter of Fingal Hourigan, one of Australia's most powerful businessmen. The case leads Malone deep into Hourigan's murky past and threatens to expose a decades' old secret, the reason Hourigan hurriedly left Chicago in fear for his life. It also threatens to destroy his ambition for his son, Archbishop Kerry Hourigan, to become the first-ever Australian Pope.
As Detective Inspector Scobie Malone uncovers more and more political involvement by the Church and more and more crime in Australian big business, it becomes clear that this is a case of corruption spanning continents and decades.