While preparing to write this month’s third book review, I discovered that the New Zealand National Badminton team were once called “The Black Cock’s” but had to change the name after a year due to complaints. It also reminded me that I start my new badminton season this week, after the summer break.
But it’s the fine women of New Zealand that we look to in this review. They were the first females in the world to get the vote in 1893, while it is still the only country in the world where all the highest positions in government have been held by women simultaneously, in 2006. This month’s book features another determined and resilient antipodean woman, her name is Sam Shephard and she’s the protagonist in a new series of books (to be published outside New Zealand) by Vanda Symon. The first one is Overkill published by Orenda books (www.orendabooks.co.uk ) on the 30th August.
Sam Shephard is the solitary local constable in the small town of Matuara on the South Island. It’s a peaceful one-horse town, where the biggest problem crime wise is speeding. That is, until local woman Gaby Knowes goes missing leaving her young daughter home alone. When her husband Lockie discovers her missing and then finds a suicide note and pills in the kitchen sink, he calls the police. From the outset Sam knows there’s a possible conflict of interest involving her and Gaby’s husband, she was his last serious relationship before he married Gaby and their split wasn’t exactly harmonious.
Whilst the missing woman’s family vehemently insist that she had no reason to take her own life, Sam must follow the clues and treat it as a suicide. A search of the area surrounding the rural property provides no sign of Gaby, until late into the night when a team of local volunteers searching the nearby Mataura river find a body. By the time Sam realizes that it isn’t a suicide as the family have claimed but something more sinister, most of the crime scene evidence in the house has been compromised by Gaby’s well-meaning mother and her over-zealous use of a hoover and duster. As Sam calls in the reinforcements from the nearby town of Gore, her previous history with Lockie gets her suspended and marked up as a suspect. Of course, as with any good heroine, this doesn’t deter her from seeking the truth behind the overzealous act of violence and this puts her on a direct collision course with her superiors as well as the locals and jeopardises her career. Can she find the killer, before he strikes again, and get to the bottom of the murder in this quiet little back water of New Zealand?
From the outset, this book had me intrigued, the title itself is a fine marketing ploy that will allow this new female crime stopper to stand cover to cover with her fellow counterparts and fight equally for shelf space with the seasoned pro’s from around the world.
Overkill!!! The word itself fires the imagination, making any casual peruser wonder as to what the story could be about and the mysteries lying within the darkly obscure covers and spine. What we get is a down to earth plain Jane copper whose hasn’t got all the answers but is believable and is no Lara Croft. No, she’s a real girl next door, who sounds like any half decent female police officer you might find on a dark windy rain swept night in any part of the world, just doing her job. Whose night, at any moment, could go from the mundane to the adrenaline pumping.
The story its self is excellently written and superbly plotted with enough misdirects and twists, to keep new fans happy. Especially rewarding is the reason for the murder, which comes out of left field and almost had me applauding its simplicity along with its potentially far reaching consequences.
The descriptive writing of Symon is fantastic too and having only ever been as far as Melbourne myself, New Zealand is somewhere I want to visit, and this book paints a picture far more beautiful and tranquil than the west of Ireland and Yorkshire moors at times. In Overkill, Symon has proved she can create more terror in this little piece of heaven, then the all to often relied upon back drops of bustling American or international cities.
This is New Zealand Author and radio host Vanda Symons (www.vandasymon.com) fifth book. Four of which feature her heroine Sam Shephard, which have all reached number one in the New Zealand bestseller lists. Overkill was first published in New Zealand in 2007, The others which hopefully Orenda won’t be too long in publishing are, Ringmaster (2008), Containment (2009) and Bound (2011) and her fifth book (not featuring Shephard) is the stand-alone psychological thriller The Faceless (2012). When not writing, Symon can be found gardening in her home in Dunedin or talking part locally and nationally in her lifelong hobby of fencing.
Overkill is what Symon has managed to avoid by delivering a concise and well-paced crime novel in no more than two hundred and seventy pages. For less than the standard over hyped big-name bestsellers, which seem to play more on substance than style. So, if you want a bright, funny and down to earth fresh faced detective to get behind as the nights start drawing in, then get down to your local book shop or download a copy.
To see what the rest of the bloggers thought of this book, check the poster below and over the next four weeks visit their sites to find out.