Allen & Unwin, December, 2006
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill
Frank Parker, a retired police officer, has been a close friend of Private
Investigator Cliff Hardy for years. There are things in Frank’s past he’s
not particularly proud of. Among them was an affair with Catherine, who
has contacted Frank, telling him he is the father of her son, and she is
threatening to inform Frank’s wife if he doesn’t help her.
Although the affair ended before Frank met his wife, there are
complications. Catherine’s husband, a doctor, was the main suspect in the
murder of his partner and Frank was the chief investigating officer. He
should have removed himself from the case but he didn’t. The doctor was
subsequently found guilty of murder and died in prison. Now Catherine is
claiming her innocent husband was framed and is insisting Frank look into
Cliff agrees to take the case for his old friend. The investigation takes
him back into the early 1980s, uncovering a past with plastic surgeons
operating on clients who need to disappear. There’s a corrupt and violent
ex-cop and Catherine’s son, who isn’t exactly squeaky clean himself. After
attempts on both his life and Catherine’s, Cliff realises that if he wants
to unravel the past, first he will have to find out who wants him out of
the way and why.
The title of the book, THE UNDERTOW, reflects how the past can sometimes
rise up and drag you under.
Peter Corris is frequently referred to as the “godfather of Australian
Crime fiction”. Cliff Hardy made his first appearance in 1980. Growing up
in Australia in the 1960s and '70s meant that most of our entertainment
came from overseas. Books, movies, television shows and even many
magazines were largely from the US or the UK. I vividly remember reading
one of Corris’ early novels. I couldn’t tell you the book or the plot, but
I do remember the joy of finding an Australian voice in crime fiction.
Here was our slang, our landscape and our sensibilities, not some imported
tale from a country on the other side of the world I had never visited.
Since then many other Australians have followed in Corris’ footsteps.
Shane Maloney, Peter Temple, even Robert G. Barrett have all joined in to
make that Australian voice even louder and more recognisable.
Corris doesn’t do lyrical prose or long poetic descriptions. In many ways
Cliff Hardy’s character reflects Corris’ writing style. No-nonsense and to
the point, he will get you from A – B by the quickest possible route.
At just 209 pages, THE UNDERTOW gets down business very quickly. It will
pull you in and carry you along until the very end.
Jan 2007 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem
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