Review: The Empty Beach by Peter Corris

This is the 4th book in the Cliff Hardy series and as well as continuing to solidify Hardy as a sound private detective it also features the iconic Sydney beach of Bondi. He has started to ease up on the drinking by this book and has also quit smoking.

In 1985 the book was also made into a movie starring Bryan Brown as Cliff Hardy and Anna Maria Monticelli as Anne Winter.

Book Details

Title : The Empty Beach
Author : Peter Corris
ISBN : 9780048200204
Pages : 163
Published Date : 1983
Publisher : Allen & Unwin
Sub-Genre : Private Detective, Hardboiled
Main Characters : Cliff Hardy

The Empty Beach is available at

Publisher's Synopsis

​A case in Bondi attracts Cliff Hardy as an ex-surfer and admirer of the suburb.

It began as a routine investigation into a supposed drowning.But Cliff Hardy, private detective, soon found himself literally fighting for his life in the murky, violent underworld of Bondi.

The truth about John Singer, black marketeer and poker machine king, is out there somewhere - amidst the drug addicts and prostitutes and alcoholics. Hardy’s job is to stay alive long enough in that world of easy death to get to the truth.

The truth hurts...

Review of The Empty Beach

Rugged Australian private detective Cliff Hardy returns in The Empty Beach, starting at the very scenic locale of Bondi Beach, but very rapidly taking him through all sorts of hell. Peter Corris sets out an intriguing mystery full of confrontation and action led by a guy who simply refuses to give up no matter what the odds. This 4th book in the series hums along smoothly providing a thrilling hardboiled adventure.

The opening scenes take place at Bondi with the detective making a rare trip to the beach where he views the scene with his own individual slant on things:

“I stood on the steps of the pavilion looking out at the heavy surf and the few people braving it with their boards and bodies. They looked frail, as if the sea was playing with them rather than the other way around. Any minute, it seemed, the water could rise up and obliterate them. But the sun was shining and the sand glowed; some of the pale people were turning pink and it was no time for glum thoughts. I took two lungfuls of the ozone and still wanted a cigarette.”

Cliff Hardy is hired by wealthy widow Marion Singer to find out whether the rumours that her dead husband is alive are true. John Singer went for a swim at Bondi Beach and never came back out of the water. Singer was a rich businessman who didn’t necessarily conduct his business legitimately. The suggestion that he faked his death after when he got himself into financial difficulty is entirely plausible.

Cliff takes his investigation onto the streets of Bondi, flashing photos of the dead man around along with a few small payments for information. But he’s not prepared for the reaction that comes as a result of his interest as he is confronted with a couple of deaths of men who only had a vague connection with his case. Its enough to tell him that he had to be dealing with more than just a missing man...someone had something to hide.

After suffering a mugging on Bondi’s backstreets thanks to his willingness to flash the roll of cash he was using to gather information, he is saved by a beefy American journalist named Bruce Henneberry. Henneberry, apart from being a handy amateur boxer, is a journalist gathering data on the local junkie scene. He’s the kind of contact that Hardy could find very useful when gleaning information off the streets.

This is an investigation that spins wildly off into dangerous tangents, notably when Hardy is snatched off the streets on more than one occasion. Yet again, it’s a case in which he is required to display his extreme durability, absorbing a great deal of punishment yet still managing to come back for more, giving as good as he gets.

Corris encompasses the entire city of Sydney, steering us out to the far western reaches of Sydney after starting off as east as it’s possible to go. Hardy manages to tie the missing Singer into the highly competitive world of illegal brothels as well as a social security scam or two. This turns out to be a brutal job for Hardy as he takes more and more punishment and barely makes it out of some pretty riveting situations.

It’s during this case that Cliff meets a cop who will go on to become a regular ally in future Cliff Hardy novels. Detective Frank Parker proves to be a more than accomplished cop and Hardy recognises a lot of his own qualities in him. Consequently he makes a point of keeping the policeman in the loop in his investigation, cultivating a trusting relationship that proves to benefit both men.

Further out of character for the hard-bitten self-confessed loner, he lives with an attractive young room-mate, a university student named Hilda. It’s difficult to work out what her role is meant to be and I thought she just seemed out of place every time she became involved in the story. Perhaps she was meant to highlight just how old Cliff is getting and would be a frustratingly out of reach temptation for him. In any case, Hardy doesn’t appear to be too comfortable with her living there, him not exactly being the sociable type.

Told from the first person perspective of Hardy, the style is abrupt as Cliff has a very matter of fact outlook on life and this is perfectly portrayed by his delivery. Consequently, little time is wasted on emotional attachments and detailed descriptions of such things as clothing or surroundings, except for anything that could be classed as a threat or a help to his cause. The result is a story that always has something interesting taking place, you just have to fill in some of the finer details yourself.

The Empty Beach is another captivating hardboiled detective story that continues the Cliff Hardy series very nicely. The story moves along quite nicely with constant injections of action thanks largely to Hardy’s innate ability to get people’s noses out of joint. Murders, abductions, escapes and severe beatings provide plenty that kept me entertained from the first page to the last.

You can get more information about the Cliff Hardy series and find a listing of all of the Peter Corris books in order by visiting the Peter Corris author page.

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