Peter Corris’ latest Cliff Hardy, WIN, LOSE OR DRAW is the last Cliff Hardy.
This amounts to a win, lose and draw situation for the legion of Cliff Hardy fans.
It’s a win because it’s a neat, clean, shaved and sober story, and Corris doesn’t care who knows it. Like Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, WIN, LOSE OR DRAW begins with Cliff Hardy being hired by a lucre lousy dad, Gerard Fonteyn, to investigate the disappearance of his daughter, Juliana, a statuesque fourteen year old vanished from their Vaucluse waterfront last December.
It is now February, and Hardy needs to work fast to crack the case that’s already cold as Cooma.
Digging up the dirt, searching the soil for secrets, tilling for the truth, Hardy’s spadework sends him on a trek as far afield as Norfolk Island where the delinquent daughter has been sighted by a cameraman called Christopher Colin Cameron.
From that Pitcairn depository of drunks and pot heads, Cliff strikes up a cordial collaboration with the snapper with the triple C moniker who maintains the delinquent daughter is crewing for an Errol Flynn look alike called Lance Harris, skipper of a ketch and suspected South Sea drug smuggler.
With a storyline snakier than the scalp of Medusa, the serpentine scenario slithers back to Sydney via Coolangatta and Byron Bay, a line of inquiry strewn with mobsters, murders and mayhem, addled addicts, predatory pushers, and crooked cops.
WIN, LOSE OR DRAW may be Cliff Hardy’s swan song, but it’s no way a swan dive. Corris confides that he had no idea that this would be Cliff’s final case and so did not impart a tone of regret, self pity or impending doom.
To continue the avian allusions, WIN, LOSE OR DRAW is a fully fledged high flying detective thriller, in no way inferior to the forty-one others in the series.
It contains all the pithy political and social comment and local Sydney colour that have been a staple since the first caper, The Dying Trade, back in 1980.
A marvelous buoy in the increasingly populous sea lanes of Australian sleuthing fiction, Cliff Hardy remains a beacon and a landmark on the local literary scene.
Hardy by name, hardy by nature, Cliff has endured the decades with a dependable decency and doggedness, surviving bludgeons, bullets and bypasses. Now, due to the author’s failing eyesight, Cliff Hardy takes early retirement.
Thank you for the canon, Mr. Corris!
WIN, LOSE OR DRAW by Peter Corris is published by Allen & Unwin.
Featured photo- Peter Corris in the backstreets of Newtown. Photo by John Feder,