#BlogTour #Review : The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon. @OrendaBooks @vandasymon

Today I’m reviewing The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon, the second in the Sam Shephard series. Many thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for letting me have a copy of the book to review.

Blurb: Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand…

Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…

Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…

My Review: At the end of the previous book (Overkill) we left Sam as she decided to move to Dunedin and make a new life there for herself. As this book is set in Dunedin it can be read as a stand alone as any links to the previous book are explained during the story.

Sam goes from essentially being in charge to bring at the bottom rung of the ladder as a detective and with a boss who appears to hate her and want to hinder her progress. When a body is discovered she gets frustrated at being sidelined in the investigation and does what she can to be more involved.

I love police procedurals, always have, and it was interesting in this book to read from the perspective of someone lower down in the investigation, rather than the leading officer. Sam is clearly frustrated at not being more involved and that comes through quite clearly. I can understand her frustration, given she was in charge in the previous book but she did annoy me at times when she appeared to expect to be able to jump a few rungs on the ladder, rather than learning her job the same way as everyone else. Having said that, it was good to see how she dealt with her frustration and also nice to see that being so normal, and something different from the usual alcoholic, damaged detectives that are in so many other books.

It’s the characters that drive this story, even that of the person found dead in the Botanic Gardens. Their character and how they impacted those around them is clearly shown during the investigation. There are quite a few characters in the book, not all human, but all of them are distinct and well-written. You get a clear sense of them from the writing which is something that I like. For a story to work well, especially a crime story, you need to care about the characters, otherwise, if there are times of danger (which in crime there usually are!) there is no concern for the character, for whether they will survive or not.

This book is a good, solid read. It works well as a stand alone so you don’t have to read Overkill first if you just want to jump straight in. If you like crime stories and want to expand your reading to new countries then this book is definitely worth picking up. There’s enough that will be familiar to UK readers that it won’t seem like too much of a culture shock but it will give you a new country to explore and that could add more books to your to-read pile which is never a bad thing.

About the author:

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.


#BlogTour #Review : Overkill by Vanda Symon. @OrendaBooks @vandasymon @annecater 

Today I bring you something a little different, crime fiction from New Zealand. Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for letting me take part in this tour. My review is below.

    Blurb:  When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems. 

    Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.

    To find the murderer … and clear her name. 

    My Review: I make decisions regarding my blogging and not all of them work but one that is continuing to be successful is my decision to read books that are different from my usual. This one is a perfect example because it’s set in New Zealand and is the first book I’ve read that’s been set there. The book starts off in an unusual way. I’ve read plenty of crime fiction where the murder takes place at the beginning and then the detective(s) need to find out who did it and why. The difference with this story is the method of murder and the way it is written. The prologue grabs you and sets the scene for the story to come. There are parts of the story that are fast paced but outside of those it is a solid crime story that focuses on the people involved and shows the impact of one death on family, friends and the people of a small town. The portrayal of the people in the book is what makes the story work, they are so realistic that you could almost be forgiven for thinking that this really happened and someone just copied down the conversations and people’s reactions. 

    I liked Sam from the outset. I did have a bit of fun initially because I’ve also been watching tv with a main character called Sam and I had trouble separating them till I knew this one a bit better. However, both characters have some of the same charactertics, probably one reason why I had trouble with them to start with. Both are strong female characters who are passionate about what they do and stand up for what they feel is right. They also both break the rules when need be though one far more than the other and both work/live in an area that is predominantely male. One Sam I know well and the other, not so well and it’s the one in this book that I don’t know as well. Although I learned a lot about her, from her excellent taste in pyjamas (I’m not joking, I’d wear them too!) to the way she deals with stress, I did feel that there was a lot more I could learn about her, there is more depth to the character than we were allowed to see and hopefully that will come out in future novels.

    I haven’t raved and gushed about this book like I sometimes do because it didn’t invoke those reactions in me. However, what it did do was keep me reading and I almost read it in one sitting. It’s well written and realistic and although my only knowledge of New Zealand is from the stunning landscapes in Lord of the Rings I could clearly picture the town and the places it in. It’s a solid story, clearly well thought out and plotted and one that flows well throughout. The story ended well, one of those endings that could be a final ending but equally left the option for more to follow if there was another book and this is one I want to follow. I liked Sam as a relateable character and want to see where her story takes her next. 

    About the author:   Vanda Symon (born 1969) is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has hit number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.