Bound by Vanda Symon #bookreview #blogtour @vandasymon @OrendaBooks @RandomTTours

On my blog today I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for the latest novel in the Sam Shephard series by Vanda Symon, Bound. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

Bound (Sam Shephard Book 4) by [Vanda Symon]

BLURB

The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect… 

MY THOUGHTS

Bound is the fourth book in the Sam Shephard series by Vanda Symon, and I think it’s the best book in the series yet. Vanda Symon knows how to create a really chilling opening, and she has created another gripping first few pages here. I wanted to know what had happened from the first page, and Vanda Symon kept me turning the pages. I raced through this book in just a couple of days.

A teenage boy returns home to a shocking scene that will be forever imprinted on his memory. His father, a local businessman, is dead, and his mother is seriously injured. What happened here, and who attacked his parents? What have they got themselves involved in?

This is such a gripping crime novel. The chapters are short and pacy, and they always left me thinking, I’ll just read one more. It’s what makes Vanda Symon’s books so addictive, and I love her writing. I had to know what was going on here and who was responsible for the crime. But this isn’t the only thing Sam is having to deal with. Her father is dying. Sam is struggling to come to terms with what is inevitably going to happen. She tries to distract herself by throwing herself into her work.

There are some shocking reveals as Sam Shephard comes closer to unravelling the truth, and there is a jaw-dropping twist that I did not see coming. Sam knows that there is more here to what meets the eye, but she seems to be the only person who can see this. It seems that the rest of the team are keen to brush the case under the carpet. I really liked how Sam fought for the victims.

Sam Shephard is such a great character, and she is one of my favourite detectives in crime fiction. She is a character you can root for right the way through, and I hope there will be many more books featuring her to come. I thought the scenes in which she was dealing with her father’s illness were really emotional, and you can see how she is struggling to accept it.

Bound is so cleverly well plotted. I loved how Vanda Symon kept the tension turning up a notch and how she kept me asking questions. Vanda’s writing is taut and so pacy. It made for such a compelling read, and I loved it.

If you’re not yet reading this series, then you really need to be. It’s a fast paced, highly engaging police procedural. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 4th January 2021 (kindle) 18th March 2021 (paperback)

Print length: 320 pages

Bound is available to buy:

Amazon UK Kobo Waterstones

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Bound BT Poster

Containment by Vanda Symon #bookreview @vandasymon @OrendaBooks @annecater

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for Containment by Vanda Symon on my blog today. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

Containment (Sam Shephard Book 3) by [Symon, Vanda]

BLURB

Dunedin’s favourite young police officer Sam Shephard is drawn into a perplexing investigation when a series of shipping containers wash up on a sleepy New Zealand beach, and a spate of unexplained deaths ensues…

Chaos reigns in the sleepy village of Aramoana on the New Zealand coast, when a series of shipping containers wash up on the beach and looting begins.

Detective Constable Sam Shephard experiences the desperation of the scavengers first-hand, and ends up in an ambulance, nursing her wounds and puzzling over an assault that left her assailant for dead.

What appears to be a clear-cut case of a cargo ship running aground soon takes a more sinister turn when a skull is found in the sand, and the body of a diver is pulled from the sea … a diver who didn’t die of drowning…

As first officer at the scene, Sam is handed the case, much to the displeasure of her superiors, and she must put together an increasingly confusing series of clues to get to the bottom of a mystery that may still have more victims…

MY THOUGHTS

Containment is the third novel in Vanda Symon’s utterly gripping Sam Shephard series. Vanda Symon is a writer who knows how to pull her readers in from the very first page. I still haven’t forgotten that opening scene in the first book Overkill. When I read that, I knew I had found a writer who I would be sticking with.

Opening the book with the sight of a container washing up on a beach in Dunedin, the local residents flock to the scene to salvage whatever they can find. The sight of all these items washed up on the beach sends the locals a bit crazy, and it brings to mind the famous saying, ‘finders keepers.’ There’s no thought among the locals for the person or people who have now lost these items. One elderly woman gets a bit more than she bargained for however when she uncovers a human skull in amongst the items washed up. Not long after Sam Shephard arrives at the scene to try to and prevent people from looting the cargo, the body of a man is discovered in the water. It is soon quickly proven that the diver didn’t die of natural causes.

I really love this series. Vanda Symon’s writing is so easy to get into, and the short chapters make it a really pacy read. It’s one of those books where you’ll think, oh I’ll just read one more chapter, and you’ll think the same the next time you get to the end of one. I also love the setting of Dunedin in New Zealand, which Vanda brings to life really well.  Sam Shephard is a brilliant character. Unlike some of her colleagues, she is a character who always tries to see the good in people. This can make her quite vulnerable. But she is also tough, and she isn’t a character who will let someone get away with a crime quite so easily. You see this side to her very early on in this book.

Sam isn’t one to shy away from her feelings, particularly if they’re about another person as well and this is the case when she is talking to her best friend Maggie who she currently shares a flat with. One of the things I also like about these books is Sam’s relationship with her friend.  Their friendship comes across as feeling real, and I like the wit in their conversations as well.

If you do prefer police procedurals with darker plots, I don’t think you’ll quite find what you’re looking for with this book, but this is a solid detective story, and I would still highly recommend that you give it a go. I wouldn’t describe the books as being really tense, although there are certainly some tense scenes through the whole series, there is just something about the character’s that draws you in, and the writing is so addictive. I think there is no doubt now that Sam Shephard is fast becoming one of my favourite detectives in crime fiction.

I think I have said all I can say about how much I like these books. I implore you to read them all as you certainly won’t regret it. Every time Vanda has a new book out, I’m sure it’ll be bumped right to the top of my reading pile!

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 5th January 2020 (kindle) 5th March 2020 (paperback)

Print length: 320 pages

Containment is available to buy: 

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones

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Containment BT Poster

May First Monday Crime @1stMondayCrime @deboc77 @vandasymon @MarkBillingham @LWilsonCrime Chris Carter

This week I’m taking over from Joy Kluver who usually writes up on First Monday Crime on her brilliant blog. For those of you who are interested in coming to the next one, the next event will be on Monday, 3rd June 2019.

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Photo courtesy of Victoria Goldman

This week on Tuesday, 7th May a crowd of crime fiction lovers headed down to City University, London to hear, Deborah O’Connor, Vanda Symon, Mark Billingham and Chris Carter be interviewed by Laura Wilson. Laura was a brilliant moderator, and often her questions and comments drew a lot of laughter from the audience.

She started off by asking the panel about the inspiration behind their latest book.

Mark was first to kick off, his latest novel in the Tom Thorne series is Their Little Secret.

He started thinking about the idea for his latest book when he heard a woman telling an extraordinary lie on the radio, while he was making toast one morning. He then started investigating con men and wondered what would happen if you put these two ideas together.

Chris’s latest book Hunting Evil features a character who he first wrote about in An Evil Mind. It was his publisher who persuaded him to write a book where Lucien comes back as he was such a twisted individual and the only killer who his detective, Robert Hunter, has ever been frightened of. This is what makes his latest book different to his previous novels as the detectives know who the killer is straight away.

The Dangerous Kind: The most unsettling thriller of the year by [O'Connor, Deborah]

Deborah said her inspiration for The Dangerous Kind came from a collision of several ideas. Deborah also works as a TV producer, and she met a woman who she was trying to build a TV show around. It was revealed to Deborah that the police have a list of potentially dangerous people who may murder someone one day in the future. A few years later when different scandals, which had been covered up came about, and the rise of true crime podcasts, it made her ask the question, how can you arrest someone before they commit the crime? Chris jumped in here and said in America the police can contact people and let them know they are watching them if they think they will commit a crime one day.

The Ringmaster (Sam Shephard) by [Symon, Vanda]

Vanda Symon has always been fascinated by circuses. In her latest book, she wanted to play on how circus people, especially from a travelling circus, can be easy targets, and how a criminal can use them to create a diversion for the police to follow. Laura Wilson said she was relieved Vanda didn’t go down the evil clown route and Vanda agreed, clowns are just creepy. In the second book, Vanda takes Sam away from the small town for the purpose of character stretching. Sam is ambitious, and she wants to reach the top of her profession, but she wasn’t going to achieve that stuck in the town where she was in the first book.

Another question from Laura for Mark and Chris was had they ever taken their character back in time or if they would ever consider doing it.

Mark revealed that he hadn’t planned to release a new Thorne novel for the 20th anniversary next year, but now he’s writing a prequel to Sleepyhead, the first book in his series. He said it is a joy writing without using modern technology and going back to good old fashioned police methods to solve a case. So look out for this book next year if you’re a fan of the Thorne novels.

Chris Carter said he would never go back in time with Robert Hunter for a book, but he has written a short forty-page story which does feature Hunter as a younger man. He much prefers writing in the present.

When asked by Laura if he would ever write anything other than a police procedural, Chris said the only thing he would consider would be a cookbook, as he’s a great cook or a conspiracy novel.

Photo courtesy of Joy Kluver

When asked about suspense, Mark says you have to give the reader characters they care about. Laura went on to say that in Deborah’s book we, the reader, know that things aren’t going anywhere good for her character, Rowena, but it works for the book. Deborah says when she’s reading a novel she holds onto the hope that something bad isn’t going to happen to the characters and this is what makes book page-turners.

Another interesting topic which was discussed was the twist. One point raised by Laura was if it had reached a stage where a twist is necessary in the contract between the writer and the reader. Deborah said that there was a time when a book depended on a big twist, but she didn’t want The Dangerous Kind to hang on the twist. One book she recommends which had a twist which completely surprised her was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

Mark wishes that publishers didn’t advertise a twist on the cover of the book. He also said that you only need one good twist rather than lots of different ones throughout the book.

Vanda says that you’ve got to do a twist in a way that doesn’t totally blindside the reader, they should be able to see it coming if they look hard enough and that it’s all about signposting. She said readers are treated intelligently and they don’t want to disappoint them with a twist that doesn’t make sense to the book.

Chris believes that if a reader feels satisfied with a twist, then that is what will get them talking about your book, and this is what will create a bestseller.

Laura then opened questions out to the audience.

One question asked was, name one thing you particularly enjoyed about writing your latest crime novel.

The one thing which the panellists seemed to agree on unanimously was the research they undertook which was the most enjoyable part for them.

Vanda spent time sampling the culinary delights of Dunedin, where her novel is set, and she also got to go and visit a travelling circus and got to step inside the caravans.

Mark said he always enjoys finishing a book. He enjoyed the promotion he was doing for his last book while writing Their Little Secrets. He also said writing the novel isn’t enjoyable and that he always feels that he’s forgotten how to write when he comes to writing the next one. He said it should get harder as you’re trying to write a better book than the last.

 

And that’s a wrap on this month’s First Monday. If you are interested in coming along to the June panel more details about who will be attending will be announced shortly. And if you are interested in purchasing the books featured in this post, you can do so by clicking on the following links.

Their Little Secret

Hunting Evil

The Dangerous Kind

The Ringmaster

First Monday Crime May @1stMondayCrime

First Monday Crime is back at City University, London in just a few days. This time the most important thing to remember is that it is on a Tuesday because of the Bank Holiday the day before. The date is Tuesday, 7th May and it is at the usual time of 18.30 p.m. So let’s take a look at the line-up for this month.

Deborah O’Connor, author of The Dangerous Kind

The Dangerous Kind: The most unsettling thriller of the year by [O'Connor, Deborah]

Perfect for fans of Anatomy of A Scandal and Belinda Bauer, The Dangerous Kind is a dark and gripping thriller that asks us all: how well do you really know the people you trust?

One in 100 of us is a ‘potentially dangerous person’ – someone likely to commit a violent crime. We all know them: these charmers, liars and manipulators. The ones who send prickles up the back of our neck. 

These people hide in plain sight. They can be teachers, doctors, lawyers, holding positions of trust, of power. 

Jessamine Gooch makes a living tracking the 1 in 100. Each week she broadcasts a radio show that examines brutal offences, asking if more could have been done to identify and prevent their perpetrators.

But when she agrees to investigate a missing person case involving a young mother, she is drawn into a web of danger that will ultimately lead to the upper echelons of power, and threaten the safety of her own family.

I read this a few weeks ago and I’ll be sharing my full review as part of the blog tour later this month. The Dangerous Kind is very readable, tense and exciting and it will make you very eager to find out how everything comes together. It’s one of those books that you can just sink so quickly into. I loved it.

Vanda Symon, author of The Ringmaster

The Ringmaster (Sam Shephard Book 2) by [Symon, Vanda]

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…

Rich with atmosphere, humour and a dark, shocking plot, The Ringmaster marks the return of passionate, headstrong police officer, Sam Shephard, in the next instalment of Vanda Symon’s bestselling series.

You can read my full review of The Ringmaster by clicking here.

Mark Billingham, author of Their Little Secret 

Sarah thinks of herself as a normal single mum. It’s what she wants others to think of her. But the truth is, she needs something new, something thrilling.

Meanwhile, DI Tom Thorne is investigating a woman’s suicide, convinced she was driven to do it by a man who preys on vulnerable women.

A man who is about to change Sarah’s life.

Chris Carter, author of Hunting Evil 

‘Every story one day comes to an end.’
As roommates, they met for the first time in college. Two of the brightest minds ever to graduate from Stamford Psychology University.
As adversaries, they met again in Quantico, Virginia. Robert Hunter had become the head of the LAPD’s Ultra Violent Crimes Unit. Lucien Folter had become the most prolific and dangerous serial killer the FBI had ever encountered.
 
Now, after spending three and a half years locked in solitary confinement, Lucien has finally managed to break free. And he’s angry.
 
For the past three and a half years, Lucien has thought of nothing else but vengeance.
The person responsible for locking him away has to pay, he has to suffer.
That person … is Robert Hunter.
And now it is finally time to execute the plan.

You can read my full review of Hunting Evil by clicking here.

 

The panel is being moderated by Laura Wilson who’s latest book is The Other Woman, she also reviews crime fiction for The Guardian. To read my review of her latest book, you can click here.

Tickets are absolutely FREE, but please reserve your space by clicking on the link below just so that the organisers have an idea of how many people are coming. Afterwards we’ll be heading to the Blacksmith and Toffemaker nearby for a drink. Books will be available to buy on the night and the authors will be signing copies. The nearest tube stations are Farringdon and Angel. If you would like to find out more about First Monday Crime and keep up to date, you can also follow them on Twitter @1stMondayCrime.

Reserve your space.

The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon #bookreview blog tour @vandasymon @OrendaBooks

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on the second novel in the Sam Shepherd series by Vanda Symon, The Ringmaster.

The Ringmaster (Sam Shephard Book 2) by [Symon, Vanda]

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…

Rich with atmosphere, humour and a dark, shocking plot, The Ringmaster marks the return of passionate, headstrong police officer, Sam Shephard, in the next instalment of Vanda Symon’s bestselling series.

MY THOUGHTS

DC Sam Shepherd is back in the second book in Vanda Symon’s riveting crime series set in New Zealand, The Ringmaster. I remember when I read the last book I was totally gripped by the opening prologue which was so chilling, and Vanda Symon has created another brilliant opening here.

After the devastating events which took place in Overkill, Sam has relocated to Dunedin and has joined the local police force as a detective constable. Sam is desperate to have the chance to move further up the chain and is always willing to prove herself to her superiors. One of the drawbacks to her new job though is her detective inspector who I really took a dislike to from the moment he was first introduced. I honestly couldn’t believe the way in which he treated Sam, which made me root even more for her to succeed. There was one scene in particular that just had me holding my breath after a particular devastating sequence of events; this shows just how well Vanda had pulled me into her story.

If you’re looking for a quick read that will hook you in right away, then this book is the book for you. You don’t have to have read the first book in the series to read this one, but once you have, you’ll want to catch up. There are short chapters which keep the pace flowing right throughout, and there is an engaging mystery to follow.

What I really like about Sam is how human she feels and how personally connected she becomes to the victims and to what has happened to them. Although she desperately wants to work in the police, she also wonders why she is drawn to this profession as she is often deeply moved and upset by crimes which have taken place; but this makes her all the more motivated and determined to solve them. It gives you a sense that she will do everything humanly possible to make that happen.

I loved the growing sense of unease that just made this book so gripping as I could never be sure who to point the finger at. Vanda Symon keeps you thinking about what is going to happen next, and there is a surprising turn of events at the conclusion. There was so much tension as Sam realised just what was going on and who was behind the killings and I was just utterly gripped as I waited to find out how it would all be resolved. But I’m not going to reveal any more about that here.

This is another top read by Vanda Symon that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. With taut writing and brilliantly developed characters, this is turning into a must-read crime series. I, for one, can’t wait to read more. Roll on book three.

Thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for sending me a copy of the book to review.

Publisher: Orenda

Publication date: 18th February 2019

Print length: 320 pages

If you would like to purchase The Ringmaster, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below. 

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones

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The Ringmaster blog poster 2019 (1)

#Overkill by Vanda Symon blog tour @OrendaBooks @vandasymon #NewZealandNoir

Overkill Cover

Source: Review Copy

BLURB

Book One in the Sam Shephard Series … a tense and atmospheric thriller by one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers

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 said her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands. To find the murderer … and clear her name.
A taut, atmospheric and page-turning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers.

MY THOUGHTS

Sometimes a book comes along which you just want to shout from the rooftops about, and Overkill for me is that book. I’d heard many great things about it so my expectations were high and they were certainly met. I’m going to be pressing this book into the hands of everyone who I know who loves crime fiction. This is one of the best introductions to a new crime series that I have read. As I was reading the prologue, I was just staring wide-eyed at the page, completely engrossed by the character’s dilemma and what she was facing at that moment. And I knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy case for the police to investigate.

What first drew me to Overkill was the book’s setting. The author, Vanda Symon, sets the novel in her home country, New Zealand. I haven’t read any books set in this part of the world before. In her debut novel, Vanda Symon paints a portrait of a friendly, tight knit community and it seems an idyllic place to live, everyone knows each other’s business. The crime rate appears to be low, and nothing untoward seems to happen, which is why the discovery of the body of one of their own, sends the community, and even the police working on the case into shock. I did wonder how the case was going to affect the town in the long run, especially if there wasn’t a quick resolution. I was beginning to imagine that there would be many pointing the finger at each other and playing the blame game.

Detective Constable Sam Shepherd, who is on the team investigating the case, is acquainted with the woman who has been found and with the victim’s husband as well. Her connection to the individuals at the heart of the crime is what makes this case particularly personal and difficult for her, even more so as she still has strong feelings for the victim’s husband. But Sam tries her best to find out what happened, even when there are many obstacles thrown in her way. She certainly isn’t given an easy time with this case, and this is what makes this book tense and exciting, I wanted to see how she was going to get out of the situation she was now in. But to find out what happens to Sam, you’re going to have to pick up the book to find out as I won’t be revealing anything here.

I did have a huge amount of empathy for Sam throughout the book. I think she is a character who fears change, and she is a person who becomes very attached to people who she knows well, particularly her friend Maggie. But when it comes down to the case, she is determined to get to the bottom of what has happened, and she is feisty in her determination to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.

I loved Vanda Symon’s writing style. When I started reading the book, I knew that it wouldn’t take me long to finish. I liked that every now and again there was a slice of humour, which really added to Sam’s characterisation and the people around her.

After reading Overkill I’m really excited to read what Vanda writes next. Overkill is an immersive, page-turner that will have you gripped from the chilling opening right through to the heart-pounding conclusion.

Thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for sending me a copy of the book to review.

Publisher: Orenda

Publication date: 30th June 2018 (kindle) 7th September 2018 (paperback)

Print length: 320 pages

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