THE UNDERTOW - Peter Corris
There's absolutely nothing better in Australian Crime fiction than a short, sharp burst of Cliff Hardy in his prime. And THE UNDERTOW has all those elements that fans of the hard-boiled, down-trodden; put upon; unlucky in love; hard man; unflinching good guy - only slightly dodgy around the edges; Australian style Private Enquiry Agent, are going to love. Somehow or other, after all these books featuring Cliff Hardy, where Cliff undergoes little in the way of major personality changes, where he's still struggling to understand the girl (any girl) and his friends keep digging holes for him to fill in, there's still something wonderfully fresh and entertaining about THE UNDERTOW.
There's also just a little bit more in THE UNDERTOW, in the finale to the book that seems to indicate that Cliff might have some serious life changing experiences to deal with, that he just might not be able to talk his way out of... or maybe he will? Who knows. Frankly who cares. You're not going to be reading a Cliff Hardy book for a thoughtful consideration of the human condition, you're not going to get a different perspective on the mind of the human animal. You're going to read it for the escapist, entertaining view of a Sam Slade style hero, with just enough of the Aussie larrikin to make him 100% our own.
Frank Parker, retired senior policeman and Cliff Hardy's long time friend, has a problem. A case from early in his career involving two doctors, one of whom was convicted of hiring a hit man to kill the other and went to gaol for the crime, is coming back to haunt him.The convicted, now dead doctor may have been innocent, and Parker had been the lover of the beautiful Catherine Castiglione, the doctor's wife.
Hardy tracks back through the now ageing names and faces, trying to tease out the truth. If the doctor was set up, who was responsible and why? Along the way Hardy encounters dodgy plastic surgeons, a broken-down ex-copper, a voyeuristic cripple and a hireling who wields a mean baseball bat.
A charismatic player is the son of Catherine Castiglione, a super-bright charmer, who just may be Frank Parker's love child. Animosities, arrogance and ambition create a spider's web around the violence that breaks out as Hardy searches for the spider.