The Mornington Peninsula is becoming a favourite crime locale for Australian crime authors. The area features heavily in Garry Disher’s Challis and Destry series (now renamed ‘Peninsula Crimes’) and in his Wyatt books, and most recently was the locale for Katherine Firkin’s second book The Girl Remains. Slightly rural but close enough to Melbourne to allow for the big guns, it is also the setting for Simon Rowell’s second crime novel The Long Game.
After a typical killer’s point of view prologue, The Long Game moves to the aftermath of a murder. Detective Zoe Mayer has just returned to work after suffering some unspecified trauma on the job. With her service dog Harry in tow, she attends the scene of a murder in the Mornington Peninsula town of Portsea. Before long the clues are pointing to the victim’s best friend. But then two similar killings from over the two years before are brought to her attention and Zoe starts to think that perhaps something bigger is going on.
Zoe Mayer is a fairly standard but appealing protagonist. Her point of difference is the traumatic event, detailed late in the book, and her subsequent relationship with her service dog Harry. But while she still suffers the aftereffects of her trauma, she is still effective at her job, full of self belief and prepared to take on the bullies in her squad. With shades of Inspector Rex, Harry is an addition almost certain to appeal to dog lovers. Usually just in the background, Harry is there for Zoe whenever her trauma is triggered but it turns out can also can tell when a witness is lying.
The Long Game has the feel of an episode of a TV crime drama – it is a straight forward police procedural with a couple of fairly predictable twists and final confrontation. It features a strong-willed investigator, some supportive and not so supportive colleagues, a boss who “believes in her instincts”, some history with a star prosecutor and the aforementioned trauma. But it could also be the introduction to a promising new Australian crime series depending on whether Rowell decides to revisit Zoe and Harry with something a little bit meatier.