“Kiwi-born Ollie Wards chronicles how his brother’s whirlwind romance with a charismatic Californian con woman ultimately cost his family more than a million dollars.
With kooky plot twists to rival a Hollywood movie, the seven-episode series follows Ollie from sleepy suburban New Zealand on an international investigation spanning Hawaii, the UK and the US. The world of Lezlie Manukian is full of wild dreams, a lavish lifestyle, big loves and broken promises in exotic locations — a hall of mirrors, equal parts fantasy and real.” – from the ABC official Snowball website.
‘Snowball’ is Season 4 of the ABC Australia’s ‘Unravel’ crime podcast and became available in August 2019. It’s not the first Unravel season I listened to, but by far the most enjoyable. It’s the type of show when, after I finished listening to it, I had to tweet the creator/narrator and let him know what an amazing job he’d done.
Snowball is the epitome of ‘fact is stranger than fiction’. Ollie’s brother falls in love with a glamorous American woman and they marry. She’s a captivating, magnetic person who easily accumulates friends and trust. The couple builds a business, largely inspired and driven by Lezlie (allegedly) but it’s strung together precariously and it doesn’t take long for it to unravel.
This is an intriguing podcast that will propel you from episode to episode like any ‘con artist’ story but it’s much more than that. Ollie’s family form most of the interviews and they’re a funny, kindhearted and wry bunch. They’re open about how they were taken in by Lezlie, how she hurt them, and the ongoing impact of her business scheme. I loved listening to the intimate conversations between them; the family love obviously sustains them.
Snowball reaches a huge crescendo towards its end – Ollie and another brother actually travel to the US to search for and confront Lezlie! The website has video footage – often shaky – so it makes for dramatic stuff. And it’s all very professionally packaged and edited.
Don’t let last year’s date put you off – I highly recommend Snowball.