Friday, May 22, 2020


FOLLOW THE MONEY by Peter Corris (Allen & Unwin, 2011)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Cliff Hardy may still have the moves but he's in trouble. The economy's tanking and he's been conned by a financial advisor and lost everything he's got. Cliff only knows one way, and that's forward, so he's following the money trail. It's a twisted road that leads him down deep into Sydney's underbelly, into the territory of big money, bent deals, big yachts, and bad people. Cliff's in greater danger than ever before, but he's as tenacious as a dog with a bone. 

The ‘godfather of Australian crime writing’, Peter Corris penned his acclaimed Cliff Hardy tales for almost four decades. This latter-career instalment sees the ageing private eye in a slump; he’s lost his PEA license and his entire life savings - embezzled away by a dodgy financial advisor, who later wound up dead. No recourse there, or so it seems. Then Hardy is unofficially ‘hired’ by a slick, desperate lawyer to find out whether the embezzler actually faked his own death; an assignment that has the budding granddad entwined with ethnic gangs and Sydney’s gritty underbelly.

This is a tale that is easy to rip through. Corris has a pared down style that keeps the action moving and the pages whirring. Hardy is an unpretentious sort of character - he is who he is, a blue collar working class bloke who's loved sport, women, and Sydney, who has a moral compass largely aligned with the law but who is ready with his fists when need be, and will put a greater justice ahead of legal niceties. He has a tendency to get up the noses of the bad and the good, who walks a tightrope between cops and criminals while largely trying to do the right thing.

Having said that, this book shows that compared to the earlier ones Cliff has evolved, matured, or aged in several ways. Boxing is in his blood, but he's not a sprightly youngster anymore. He has to worry about hospital visits for age-related issues as well as the physical scrapes which he's always drawn like a magnet. Overall, FOLLOW THE MONEY is full of many of the usual Cliff Hardy escapades, while also giving readers a sense of timing passing for the private eye with the hard hands but big heart. A very enjoyable read that you could dive into without having read any of the previous books - it stands alone enough and readers can pick up touches of Cliff's history through the events in this one - while not showcasing Corris at the absolute peak of his powers.

This is an expanded version of a newspaper review I wrote of this book on its 2011 publication. 

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

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