This is the first book by Peter Corris, published in 1980, about a private detective with a love and understanding of the best and worst parts of Sydney. I have read a couple of the remarkable 40 books in the series but came back to #1 to get a better understanding of Hardy's remarkable character.
Cliff Hardy is ex-army, and an insurance investigator turned private investigator. He ekes out a living on minor, normally low paying, cases and has a love-hate relationship with his time and place. He tends to get drawn into cases involving people he deplores, especially those with wealth and connections. He lives on the edge of Glebe near the greyhound stadium and his description of Glebe is very evocative to me - "Glebe is one of those places where if you can't see a pub by looking both ways down the street then you must be standing outside one". Hardy is a borderline alcoholic, drives an old Falcon with almost bald tires, a heavy smoker and always seems to have luck in seducing the ladies.
In this first book Hardy is approached by a very rich man. Bryn Gutteridge to investigate threats made to his twin sister Susan who is in a private sanitorium. Soon Hardy gets drawn into the world of a powerful and disjointed family and after an initial frosty introduction is also surprisingly also hired by Bryn's beautiful young and rich widowed stepmother, Ailsa. The plot is action-packed but some parts a bit unbelievable with car bombings, torture, attempted hit and runs, and protection of an escaped prisoner, all interlaced into a tale of a fractured but very wealthy family.
This was a good introduction to the series but the introduction to Cliff Hardy was what made it work for me. So now I have a big job ahead of me to read some or all of the remaining books in this outstanding Australian series.