On Saturday, May 4, The Saturday Age reviewed ‘Roll With It‘ and, after reading it, I was floating around the town of Daylesford, where I happened to be kicking back that weekend.

The review is here. But I cut and pasted it below, in case it disappears off the Fairfax site.

Coffee, crooks and a cowboy cop challenge ‘chain ganger’

Date May 4, 2013

Review By Sue Turnbull

As much as it’s a cracking crime novel, Roll with It is all about Melbourne. Somewhere between Peter Temple’s poetics of place and Shane Maloney’s antic comedy of the urbane, the aptly named Nick Place has created his own take on what he describes as ”a European city happily stranded in the wrong hemisphere”. The kind of city where, although the big commercial chains may have made small inroads, the early Italian migrants have ensured that a ”decent” coffee is never far away – and good coffee matters a lot to Detective Senior Sergeant Tony ”Rocket” Laver (watch out for the nicknames, they are a joy unto themselves).

Writing a city: Nick Place's 'Roll With It'
Writing a city: Nick Place’s ‘Roll With It’

Suspended from his duties in the Special Operations Group after ”dusting a lowlife career criminal” who shot first, Laver finds himself with rather too many coffee opportunities as he patrols the city on a top-of-the-range custom-built mountain bike with SLX hydraulic disc brakes and XT drivetrain – whatever they are. (Apologies, this review is not written by a bike person, though the encouragement to hit the pedals is acknowledged.) Demoted to the pompously monikered ”Mobile Public Interaction Squad” while a police inquiry investigates what the headlines scream is the sixth police shooting by a ”cowboy” Victorian cop in four months, Laver has a lot to think about: a failed marriage and a ”lost” son; a fiancee who doesn’t seem to care; a career in crime enforcement on the skids; and an inexplicable ghost and a defunct pigeon in his living room.

On the plus side, Laver has his new colleagues in the bike squad to distract him, and the opportunity to appreciate Melbourne’s street art and architecture as he pedals Lycra-clad around the city.

As will be revealed, Laver may be a tough cop but he’s also a dab hand when it comes to dealing with distressed old ladies. And while he may turn a blind eye to the activities of the street artists or a jilted girlfriend defacing her ex’s car, when it comes to spotting real trouble, Laver’s ”spider senses” never let him down.

Roll with It opens and closes with Laver in action, doing what he does best: catching the bad guys. In chapter one we are introduced to two such, The Wild Man and Stig, whose mother named him after Abba’s manager rather than that other one in the car show. The pair are on the road to Melbourne with a large quantity of hijacked drugs, which they need to offload before the former owner catches up with them. And then there’s the lovelorn Jake, assistant manager of the Gro-Co supermarket in Heidelberg, desperately yearning for the grey-eyed beauty in the next lane of the Fitzroy swimming pool. How they all fit together, and so seamlessly, is what makes this first crime novel such a joy to read.

A former police rounds journo as well as a writer of fantasy comedy novels for pre-teen readers, Place mixes humour and whimsy with street cred. As he tells us in a postscript, some of the more improbable moments such as Laver cat-napping on the job only two minutes before opening fire on the out-of-luck criminal, come direct from the lips of the cops who lived them.

But it’s the kind of throwaway line describing Laver’s ill-fated stake-out in the Tullamarine airport car park, where the ”cars roamed aimlessly looking for parks less than three suburbs from the terminals”, which hooked me in. Roll with It is a beautifully observed crime novel that hits all the right marks.

Roll on the sequel.


Nick Place

Hardie Grant, 256pp, $24.95