The American debut of a long-running series (a dozen titles) starring Aussie p.i. Cliff Hardy, a 40-ish tough-honed six-footer with an eye for the ladies. The one in sight here is widow Felicia Todd, whose late husband Barnes left a note asking Cliff to look into his murder--if it happened. The last word on the Barnes's lips before his fatal car ``accident'' was ``O'Fear''--partial name of a jailed reprobate whom Cliff consults, leading to an attempt on the con's life. What's up? Both O'Fearna and Mulholland at Barnes's trucking enterprise recount Barnes-in-Korea suspect activities and a possible vendetta mounted by an American captain over a Malaya campaign. Meanwhile: Stanley Riley, Barnes's trucking business competitor, is trying to strongarm Mulholland; Athena Security vans are tailing Felicia and Cliff; and Eleni Marinos, head of Athena, may have been having an affair with Barnes, of which Felicia (now sleeping with Cliff) was well aware. Moreover, the question arises as to what was in the bags Barnes left at his beach house. Frame- ups, set-ups, two more deaths, and a deft bit of scheming and forgery by Barnes's lawyer occur before Cliff realizes he has been a pawn in a master plan, and the widow and the lawyer thank him nicely and leave. So-so, with odd quirks of syntax and less rush-of-adrenalin heroics than in recent Aussie imports, such as those from Charles West.