TORN APART - Peter Corris
It couldn't ever be said that the loss of his Private Investigator's licence has slowed Cliff Hardy down. In TORN APART, the death of his look-alike cousin in Cliff's house, an arrest for importing illegal drugs, a trip to Ireland, a gathering of Irish Traveller descendants, a brush with the spooks and a new woman don't even slow him down. But they do coincide to give him a moment or two's thought.
Meeting Patrick - a second cousin he never knew about, a second cousin who is the absolute spitting image of him certainly does give Cliff something to think about. Not the least because the contact comes out of the blue and impetuously leads to a trip to Ireland to track down their joint ancestors. Having had a tremendous trip overseas, the cousins return to Sydney and Cliff's house, only to have Patrick shot to death in Cliff's back bathroom. For a while it's not particularly clear who was the intended target - Cliff or Patrick, the physical similarity being as startling as it is. Pretty soon Patrick's ex-wife enters the fray (and Cliff's bed), the spooks appear, and Patrick is obviously not exactly what he seemed to be. Cliff starts out investigating - to avenge his cousin, protect his own skin, clear his own name, keep in sweet with the girl, and because he just can't help himself.
There have been some terrific books in the Cliff Hardy series recently, in the lead up to, and the ultimate loss of his PI Licence. A heart attack, a near fatal bullet wound, getting older, a lot of things have contributed in recent books to Cliff becoming a slightly (very slightly) different person to who he used to be. Perhaps that's why TORN APART isn't my absolute favourite of the recent books - mostly because this outing felt more like a return to the expected pattern. Events happen; Cliff gets the girl; he's threatened and backed into a corner; solves the case; starts to lose the girl. Not that the pattern isn't well executed, enjoyable, and just a darn good entertaining read, but perhaps it's that slight feeling of returning to the same old same old, the lack of Cliff continuing to move on, changing, aging, adapting. There's none of that feeling in TORN APART, and because of that, it's not going to make my one of my favourite Cliff Hardy books. Mind you, it's still a good, entertaining, perfect summer quick read, in the full-on style of Cliff Hardy. There's not a lot wrong with that.
Semi-retired. De-licensed. But Cliff Hardy is once again fighting for justice and tracking down evil when his cousin is brutally murdered - did the shotgun blast find its target, or was it meant for Hardy?
Hardy has never been much of a family man, so when he meets his second cousin Patrick Malloy it's like being hit with a left hook to the solar plexus - Malloy is his double. Cliff and his cousin become friends and travel to attend a gathering of the Irish Travell - the gypsy-like folk from whom they are descended. On their return, Malloy is brutally murdered - but was the shotgun blast intended for him or for Hardy? Hardy is de-licensed, semi-retired ... but this investigation is personal.
The plot becomes still more personal when Malloy's ex-wife, Sheila, comes onto the scene. Hardy has his own enemies and Malloy's to consider as he searches for the killer. Clues point in many directions - to Sheila's motives, to Malloy's suspect business dealings, to his time as a mercenary in Angola.
The search takes Hardy north to a para-military training camp and south to a meeting of Traveller descendants in Kangaroo Valley. Other players have other interests and their playing style is ruthless.