Title : White Meat
Author : Peter Corris
ISBN : 0449130274
Pages : 198
Published Date : 1981
Publisher : Fawcett
Sub-Genre : Private Detective, Hardboiled
Main Characters : Cliff Hardy
He needs a nice smooth job, something to pay the bills - and keep his glass filled.
But smooth this one isnt. Ted Tarleton is a very rich bookie whose beautiful, spoiled daughter, Noni, is missing. Tarleton wants Hardy to find her. The logical place to start is with Nonis boyfriend, but the actor has long since ceased to keep tabs on her.
So Hardy makes for seedy La Perouse, where the local aboriginals recognise Nonis photo. Shes the one they call "white meat". And Hardy will take more than a few blows as he follows her into the violent wreckage of her own past...
Review of White Meat
The second book in Peter Corris' widely popular Cliff Hardy detective series is very reminiscent of Hardy himself, full of attitude, a little rough around the edges but uncompromising in its effort to produce results. White Meat begins as a missing person case when rich bookie Ted Tarelton hires Hardy to track down his daughter who has appeared to have gone off the rails.
Noni was last seen in the company of a young Aboriginal man headed for the windswept Sydney suburb of La Perouse. From virtually the first moment Hardy steps foot into the suburb things start to go haywire and by the time he leaves the place there is a faceless corpse lying on the coastal rocks and he has a nasty gash on the back of his head. Pretty standard stuff for a Cliff Hardy investigation.
On the plus side, he has also managed to get a bit of information from an aboriginal man named Jimmy Sunday which is enough to send him racing up the New South Wales coast to the town of Macleay. Still thinking he is on the trail of the elusive Noni he finds himself caught up on the wrong side of some Italian mobsters looking to make a killing in the boxing game. On top of this complication he receives word that Noni is no longer missing - now shes kidnapped.
Far from being a normal kidnapping, everything about this feels wrong starting with the amount of money that has been demanded and on through to the amount of time it took to notify Ted Tarelton. Hardy takes charge with strong suspicions about the missing girl and plunges back into a complicated history of crooks, thieves, aboriginal boxers and the not too shabby sum of $100,000.
Wherever Cliff Hardy goes trouble and violence always follow but the fact that he starts his investigation in a Newtown boxing gym makes this assertion inevitable. His willingness to push people in the hope of shaking loose a reaction occasionally backfires and his methods arent appreciated by the aboriginal ex-boxers he meets in both the inner Sydney suburbs and La Perouse. Not only does Hardy get results but he does so in a particularly lively and interesting way.
The drizzle had stopped and the clouds had peeled back leaving Newcastle squatting sullenly in a pool of moonlight. It opened its mouth and sucked me in.
Corris has a flair for description that makes even the most mundane scene quietly evocative. His delivery is, at times, exquisite and not without a healthy dose of biting good humour. Part of the appeal of the Cliff Hardy books is the presentation of the city of Sydney with the good highlighted equally prominently as the dingy.
An investigation that begins as a search for a runaway young woman becomes an involving family saga in which long hidden skeletons are unearthed and long held grudges are borne out. A cleverly interwoven secondary plot puts Cliff slap bang in the middle of a boxing scam with a bunch of Italian mob-like characters on one side and a community of aboriginal boxers on the other. Its a scenario that is destined to end badly for all concerned.
White Meat is vintage Cliff Hardy and, like the detective is a little rough around the edges occasionally drifting along aimlessly but ultimately firing up to provide a stinging resolution to a tightly woven story. As for Cliff Hardy, he is the epitome of the cynical, hardboiled detective who is never more than an hour away from his next drink, smokes a deadly brand of roll-your-own cigarettes and couldn't care less what others think about him.
The groundwork for what is to become a very popular and long running series is meticulously laid in White Meat establishing the tough no-nonsense detective with whom you can depend on an action-packed ride. Far more complex than a simple missing person story, Peter Corris introduces you to an essential fabric of Australian society in his books.
The first book in the long-running Cliff Hardy series is The Dying Trade.
You can read more reviews of White Meat here.