Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review of Roll With It by Nick Place (Hardie Grant, 2013)

Tony ‘Rocket’ Laver is a Detective Senior Sergeant with the Victoria Major Crimes unit in Melbourne.  In an operation to arrest a team of armed robbers he shoots one of the gang members dead.  It is the sixth time a Victoria cop has killed a member of the public in a four month period.  The fact that Laver was returning fire cuts no mustard with the politicians who feel they need to set an example.  Senior police management bow to their pressure, demoting Laver and ‘sending him to Siberia’ pending an inquest.  Siberia turns out to be the Mobile Public Interaction Squad, cops who patrol the city on bikes, helping tourists and directing traffic.  It’s a long drop down from being a member of an elite squad and means turning up for work dressed in Lycra.  To add to his woes his fiancée has little sympathy for his predicament and is giving him the cold shoulder.  Reluctantly, Laver takes to the saddle, but it doesn’t take him long to spot four shady characters who immediately set his crime detection antenna twitching: a naive, love struck junior supermarket manager, a beautiful green activist, and two career criminals.  Laver is sure that a major crime is about to take place, but given his quarantining none of his previous colleagues want to know and it’s left to him and a newbie bike cop to investigate.  

Comic crime capers always have elements that are a little exaggerated or stretch the imagination, with characters that are somewhat larger than life.  At the same time, the story has to have some ring of believability about it.  It’s a difficult balance to perfect.  For the most part, Nick Place manages it with Roll With It, a tale about a good cop’s fall from grace and his increasingly desperate attempt to gain redemption.  Laver the career cop demoted from elite squad to bike duty, Jake the naive supermarket assistant, Lou the rebellious green activist, Stig the loser, low-level criminal, and Westie his violent side-kick, are all well-penned and engaging characters whose lives become entangled.  For the most part the plot also works well, with Jake pursuing Lou, Stig’s former girlfriend, whilst Stig is also trying to win her back whilst also offloading a consignment of drugs stolen in a different part of the country.  However, I didn’t quite buy Laver’s initial or ongoing quarantining, nor his relationship to his fiancée which seemed way past over and certainly not worth pursuing.  The tale is told in a nice tell not show style, with a gently comic voice, and a nice sense of place with respect to the city streets of Melbourne.  Overall, Roll With It is a light, enjoyable and amusing read.

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