“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 turn today on the epic blog tour for Vanda Symon’s Overkill. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my place on the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
So, this is my first book in the new genre of New Zealand Noir and anyone thinking that this is just another label and that it isn’t really anything different from standard crime needs to read it as, having devoured the book, it is quite clear that the location is extremely distinctive and a very important element in the novel – this book and the plot could not have been set anywhere else in order to have worked.
The book is set in a small, rural town in a remote corner of New Zealand – the Kiwi version of a one horse town – where Sam Shepherd is the sole police officer. When the wife of her ex-boyfriend goes missing, she is torn between her personal and professional positions as she begins to investigate. Once the young woman’s body is found, supposedly the victim of suicide, things get even more complicated.
As I said, this book and its plot only works is because of its very particular setting. The fact that this is a small, rural town is extremely important to the plot, but also lends the book a focused and slightly claustrophobic atmosphere that ramps up the tension of the book. And tension there definitely is, this is a tautly plotted and well-paced crime novel that will keep you gripped from the disturbing opening scenes until the final frantic pages. The juxtaposition of sleepy town and violent crime, and familiar faces and suspicion are a major source of the conflict and unease in the book.
The character of Sam is a fascinating one to carry the book. She is strong-willed and determined but also often shows her humanity and weakness and the internal struggle between her professional duties and personal feelings is a fascinating aspect of the book and makes her very human and easy to relate to. Her intimate knowledge of the town and its people both assists and hampers her investigations, which is an interesting spin on the investigation and another reason why this plot only works in its very specific environment.
The plot did not at all go the way I had expected at the beginning and the final motivations for the crime so novel and unexpected that it would have been impossible to guess what was coming and I wonder where the writer got her inspiration. This is a book that I believe could only have been written by a New Zealander and set in New Zealand, It gave the book a very distinct flavour which I really enjoyed and I will look out for more from this author.
One for any crime fans looking for something new and a bit different.
Overkill is out tomorrow and you can order a copy here.
To find out what my fellow bloggers think of the book, you can follow the tour below:
About the Author
Vanda’s first novel Overkill, was written while juggling the demands of a 6 month old baby and a two year old. She suspects the prologue to Overkill was written in a state of sleep deprivation induced paranoia brought about by middle of the night feeds and imagining every awful thing that could possibly happen to her family. None of them ever did. Reading that prologue still makes her cry.
A little time has elapsed and the six-month old and two-year old are now teenagers. As well as trying to raise two wonderful human beings, she has added three more Detective Sam Shephard novels to the series and written the stand alone psychological thriller The Faceless.
As well as being a crime writer, she hosts a monthly radio show on Dunedin’s Otago Access Radio called Write On, where she interviews local writers, and catches the odd international super-star if they’re in town.
And just to prove that she is a tiger for punishment, she has recently completed a PhD at the University of Otago looking at the communication of science through crime fiction – the perfect subject for a science loving crime writer. She has an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy and enjoyed a career as a community pharmacist and palliative care pharmacist before concentrating on her writing career.
Vanda has been involved with the New Zealand Society of Authors for many years, having been chair of the Otago Southland Branch. She is currently the Otago Southland regional delegate on the NZSA Board. Vanda was also the Chair of Copyright Licensing New Zealand.
When she isn’t writing, Vanda can be found digging around in her garden in Dunedin, or on the business end of a fencing foil. She has fenced since high school and still competes in national and international competitions. As well as competing she coaches, and because she likes to get involved, boots and all, is the president of Fencing South and on the board of Fencing New Zealand.
Vanda is a founding member of the Dunedin Crime Writers Association, whose raison d’etre is for its members to drink beer or wine and talk crime writing at their favourite pub.
Connect with Vanda:
Facebook: Vanda Simon