About The Book
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 pageturning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand s finest crime writers.
New Zealand literature is a new genre for me with Overkill by Vanda Symon being my first foray into the world. This is the first in the Sam Shephard series of books and opens with one of the most chilling yet compelling prologues that I think I have ever read. Gabriella Knowles is at home with her baby daughter when a man arrives at her door purporting to be from the telephone company and gains entry to her house. What happens next is neither violent nor explicit but is dark and nightmarish and sets up a page-turner of a book.
Set in a rural New Zealand this is an atmospheric novel which examines the effects of a death on a small, tight-knit community. Gabriella’s death is shocking and for our protagonist PC Sam Shephard it is very close to home as Gabriella’s husband, Lockie is her ex-boyfriend. We quickly learn how interwoven the relationships in this town are, with loyalties and grievances coming to the fore to both help and hinder Sam’s investigation.
As a protagonist Sam has to be one of my favourites this year. She is tenacious, loving and wise-cracking with a gut instinct that leads her down dangerous paths. She also does ridiculously stupid things that had me shaking my head, but who wants a perfect protagonist anyway? Sam is perfectly imperfect and I loved how human she is. On the one hand she is this brave, headstrong woman who is unafraid to confront and won’t back down when she knows she is right but then on the other hand she is a person still in love with her ex, who wears her flaws like armour and who feels she is a disappointment to her parents. We see all facets of Sam when she is at home with her housemate, Maggie, where she is able to be her true self and her insecurities and worries come flooding out. I loved the friendship between these two women who shore each other up and provide unwavering support and a kick up the backside when needed.
Where this book really excels is in the plotting and pacing. Vanda Symon has created such a likeable and compelling character in Sam that she needs a cracking plot to play in and what a plot it is. I couldn’t unpick it, couldn’t work out why Gabriella had died, what had led to that point and I loved being disarmed and trying to fit the jigsaw pieces together along with Sam. It is brilliantly written and utterly readable with humorous moments that lightened the darkness.
I’ve struggled a little in the past with police procedural novels as I can find them a little bogged down in the, er, procedure, whilst I just want to get on and find out about the people and the place but Overkill manages to avoid this pitfall. Yes there are references to the minutiae of a police investigation but they don’t hinder the flow of the narrative allowing Vanda Symons to concentrate on building a sense of place and the building tension in this small town.
When I was reading Overkill it reminded me of The Dry by Jane Harper which also features a death in a small town and an utterly likeable protagonist. I am thrilled that this is the first in a series as I can’t wait to meet Sam again.
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
My thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the Blog Tour and for a copy of the book in return for an honest review. Overkill is out now in both ebook and paperback .
Make sure to check out the rest of the tour, details are beneath!