Book Review: “The Long Game” by Simon Rowell (@sirowell_author @text_publishing @EasternRegional)

The Long Game (Text Publishing, 2021) by Simon Rowell

Simon Rowell’s The Long Game is a riveting read, set around the Mornington Peninsula in southeastern Metropolitan Melbourne. Frequent visitors to the beachside suburbs will find this crime thriller particularly enthralling.

The story features Detective Sergeant Zoe Mayer, an instinctual investigator who is recently back from extended leave for PTSD. Her sidekick is a service dog named Harry, a very endearing golden retriever.

Rowell does a brilliant job concealing what has happened to cause the PTSD – until near the story’s end, which can be maddening to those who cannot help but quickly falling in love with the heroine. People around Zoe seem to either venerate or despise her. It makes readers eager to delve into the great secret that is her past.

As the story unfurls – and as a seemingly straightforward murder case becomes increasingly complicated – we have to admire the author’s control of the narrative pace. There are no minced words nor frivolous details of emotions. Every dialogue is dynamic, designed to accelerate the story’s progress.

Even after an arrest is made, readers are faced with a series of twists and turns that push them to the edge of their seats. We soon realise that the killer is “a fricken genius”, a “planner” who is calm, in control, and dangerously patient.

Throughout the book, there are hints of Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Thomas Harris’s Black Sunday, and even Dan Brown’s Inferno. There is also a nice combination of cutting-edge technological surveillance, forensic investigation, good old-fashioned deduction, and blood-pumping search and pursuit.

But ultimately The Long Game is unique in its own way, thanks to its meticulously plotted story full of authentic and likeable characters. In the author’s words:

“Although the novel is action-driven, with a tough and clever investigator, I hope that people appreciate Zoe’s resilience against those who want to bring her down. Often, she finds herself isolated, but she maintains faith in her own instincts. She backs herself, which I particularly respect.”

It is necessary to mention here that Harry is not your ordinary police dog. A “specialist” in many ways, his presence not only sheds light on Zoe’s physical and mental strengths but is also crucial to solving the chilling murder case.

In an interview, Rowell encourages aspiring writers to find and polish their own voices. “[My writing style is like] a fingerprint, pretty much unique to me… I write punchy, hardboiled crime novels with strong female characters [and] I lean in to my strengths.”

Rowell further highlights the importance of reading and learning the craft of writing, as well as being open to constructive criticism. Indeed, this reviewer would love to be the fly on the wall when the Victorian Police Film and Television Office provided feedback to the author on “some of the technical aspects of policing”.

Readers are invited to meet Rowell via Zoom on Wednesday 25 May, to discuss his process of writing and getting published. More details can be found on Eastern Regional Libraries website.

Note: This book review, originally titled “Crime thriller full of surprises”, was published under the title “Full of surprises” by Ranges Trader Star Mail on May 17, 2022, P.26.

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