Two of the greatest Australian crime writers died within six months of each other in 2018. Peter Temple authored nine novels, four of which featured roustabout Melbourne private detective Jack Irish, and one of which, Truth, won the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2010. Temple died on 8 March 2018, aged seventy-one. Peter Corris was more prolific, writing a staggering eighty-eight books across his career, including historical fiction, biography, sport, and Pacific history. Forty-two of those highlighted the travails of punchy Sydney P.I. Cliff Hardy. Corris died on 30 August 2018, seventy-six and virtually blind.
Peter Corris’s Comeback, the thirty-ninth or some such book in his Cliff Hardy series, is yet another to be plucked from the apparently bottomless ocean that is the crime fiction genre. Ageing private detective Hardy – as adept with his fists as he is tactful with the ladies – skulks around a Sydney crammed with scabrous cops, fat-cat entrepreneurs, hired muscle, slinky prostitutes, and myriad other shady types. Misogyny at times bubbles uncomfortably close to the surface, there is no ailment physical or emotional that cannot be alleviated by alcohol, and the outcome conceals an Ian McEwan-ish twist so inevitable that it ultimately manifests as anything but.