For reasons that I am sure are explained in earlier instalments of the series Cliff Hardy has been banned for life from holding a private investigator’s license and has been without that license for more than three years. As this book opens though Cliff is able to take advantage of a relaxation in the suspension rules and soon has his license back, a new office and even a website courtesy of his son-in-law. Finally he can make some much-needed cash. His first client is Bobby Forrest, the son of a former client of Cliff’s, who is apparently being stalked by the tenacious and threatening woman he spent a night with after meeting via an online dating site. Bobby is an up-and-coming actor and is in a promising new relationship so he wants the issue of his stalker to be sorted out quietly if at all possible. When Cliff is only a few days into the case Bobby is murdered and Cliff soon discovers there is an abundance of potential suspects, most of whom drive white commodores.
I don’t feel particularly well qualified to be reviewing this book given it’s the 37th in a series of which I can’t recall reading a single earlier instalment (though I may have done in the years before I kept note of such things). For at least the last few years I’ve thought I really ought to read one given my growing interest in local crime fiction but it is rather daunting to come to such a long running series so late in the game. I was somewhat surprised then to find COMEBACK very easy to get into. Sure I was meeting someone who clearly had a past but enough was explained for me to make sense of the present story and I didn’t feel like I was missing out on insider jokes or anything similar. Conversely, it feels like I could easily go back and read some of the earlier novels without there being too many spoilers from having read a later book in the series. I suspect this particular balance is not as easy to pull off as Corris made it appear.
The mystery is a good one, with plenty of twists and red herrings. There’s a nice mixture of old-fashioned style detecting (stakeouts, following people, getting a bit roughed up) and more technologically dependent work as well. Quite often in crime fiction detectives of a certain age are portrayed as complete technophobes and it rarely rings true for me so it was good to see Cliff, who I took to be somewhere in his 50’s, depicted as being willing to use technology when necessary.
I found Cliff Hardy a likeable enough character though not quite the toughened firebrand I might have expected from what I’ve gleaned of his earlier exploits. Then again we all slow down as we get older and I did rather enjoy the depiction of a man who was both reflecting on his past and looking forward with what seemed like new optimism to his future. The first person narrative and relatively short length of the book don’t allow for too many other characters to be depicted in great depth, though there were several people who added colour and flavour to the story.
I’ve no clue if this instalment would keep fans of the series happy or not but for this new reader COMEBACK proved a pleasantly engaging read, with enough to recommend it that I am keen now to seek out other books in the series (though I can’t imagine ever having the time to read them all). Corris’ dig within the novel at the padded length of much modern crime fiction is suggestive of the reason the book is at the shorter end of the spectrum which is another strong point in its favour.
If anyone can tell me the relevance of the cover to the story I will be eternally grateful. From memory no significant event from the book took place at night or in this kind of back alley so I am forced to ponder whether covers are just random these days.
My rating: 3.5/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Author website: http://www.petercorris.net/petercorris.net/Home.html
Publisher: Allen & Unwin 
Length: 157 pages ?
Format: eBook (ePub)
Source: I bought it
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