Veteran shamus Cliff Hardy (O’Fear, 1991, etc.) stars in a so-so hard-boiled dish from Australia.
Dr. Elizabeth Farmer, Professor of Linguistics at Sydney University, is distressed over the mystery surrounding the death of her father, though she seems to be alone in thinking it a mystery. Frederick Farmer’s house—“his weekender at Wombarra in the Illawarra”—had been destroyed by fire along with it, but the authorities find his death eminently predictable. The house was old and wooden and Farmer a man who liked his drink at night and slept heavily. Dr. Farmer understands the skepticism, she tells Hardy, but the local cops don’t really know her evil stepmother and the devious means she’s ready to employ to gain her greedy ends. Once Hardy’s hired on, he soon confronts a second case involving another unhappy woman. Marisha Karatsky’s 15-year-old daughter has gone missing under circumstances harrowing enough to fret any mother. Can Hardy be prevailed upon to help? The question is rhetorical, since exotic Marisha asks it as her firm breasts are already prevailing on him. Launching his double investigation, Hardy suffers the beatings obligatory even below the Tropic of Capricorn before rescuing his damsel-clients, sort of.
The Down Under sleuth goes up over average, though not by much.