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The Slow Roll by Simon Lendrum

This debut novel by Simon Lendrum, The Slow Roll has an absolutely cracking start. Readers are immersed into the world of O’Malley who, themselves has been inadvertently thrown into a life of murder, drug-dealing, laundering, police and gangs - all with the backdrop of our own Auckland City. As the tag line says, Nothing is simple for O’Malley. And that sure is the case here.

Roy O’Malley is a fascinating character, all at once a part time investigator, general Kiwi fella, but also this overarching hint of something more. Lendrum has clearly spent some time thinking of how to make his protagonist almost elusive, holding something back as the novel progresses. The plot really gets going when we as readers note that he seems attracted to the dramatic, to the sad news stories that come across his path. His interactions with a father who has lost his daughter and wants O’Malley’s help to find her becomes the destabilising event that goes on to drive the conflict and overall purpose of the novel.

Meticulously researched and expertly written, the prose just oozes confidence and control of the writer’s craft. The descriptions through the characterisation and the very city of Auckland as a character in and of itself, it really quite special. Lendrum clearly used his lock down time wisely!

The death of a fellow gambler lifts the drama to new levels, as O’Malley increasingly finds himself in locations he does not want to be, and with people he does not want to associate with. Pulling every trope out of the bag when it comes to dealings with bad guys and the general dialogue that goes along with such individuals, Lendrum really digs deep in the kete of the genre and pulls out some magic. The fresh and vibrant feel to the whole thing really acknowledges him as a new and exciting voice in the whole landscape of fiction writers in Aotearoa.

Perhaps a more intriguing character is that of Claire, O’Malley’s rather inked up girlfriend who seems to have more of the knack for super sleuthing that he does. She seems far more capable in the whole affair and often makes O’Malley appear a little buffoon-like in comparison. Certainly much of the humour came from her.

Lendrum is a witty writer, with some superb one liners along the way. Certainly a few surprises jump out at you when you least expect it, but that’s the fun and games that go along with reading some quality prose in the crime genre. A highly recommended, easy to enjoy read!

Overall this was a wonderful page turner, read substantially quicker than expected due to the ‘just one more’ nature of the chapters. A bit of a holiday read (due to missing a couple of deadlines in the enjoyment of this more than anything else!) but one that really delivers with punches well above the weight of a typical first novel.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Upstart Press


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