PETER CORRIS – Matrimonial Causes. Dell, 1st US printing, August 1994. First published in Australia by Bantam, paperback, 1993.

   In order of publication, this is the 13th of what is now a series of 41 novels and short story collections about a Sydney-based private eye named Cliff Hardy. It makes sense, in a way, that it was the first Hardy book to appear in the US, since — virtue of a story within a story — it is the tale of Hardy’s first case, and how he barely survived it.

   Why it doesn’t make sense that Dell would go with this one first is that the story just isn’t all that interesting, involving as it does how the high and mighty in Australia can get around the legal rules defining who can get divorces there without causing a lot of notoriety. And notoriety is exactly what these same high and mighty do not want, not when possible knighthoods lie in the balance.

   Hardy seems like your typical PI in most other ways, though: fighting through a marriage of his own on the brink of a breakup, a cheap mostly unfurnished office in a iffy part of town, and a singular lack of clients. He also, in this case, has not yet made the contacts he should have, either in the underworld or the police force. Especially the police force, a key element in Matrimonial Causes, and Hardy, telling the story later, says it’s a lesson he never forgot.

   To sum up, then. Cliff Hardy himself seems like an interesting character, a little stereotyped, perhaps, but solid enough for another go-round. The story he narrates this time, though, is far too bland for my liking.