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…
Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the new book by Vanda Symon. The Ringmaster is the second book in the Sam Shepard detective series (you can read my review of the first book, Overkill, here.) and I was really excited to see what Sam was up to. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my place on the tour and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
Things have moved on for Sam Shephard since the events of Overkill. She has moved from the small town of Matuara to the bright lights of Dunedin and started her training as a detective. However, she is now at the bottom of the pecking order and not everyone is happy with her fast-tracking to CIB, particularly her boss, who seems to have it in for her and makes her life as difficult as possible.
The books kicks off to a flying start with the disturbing murder of a female student from the university at the same time as a protest at a circus which is visiting the town. As Sam gets involved in investigating the antics at the circus, she becomes convinced that it may have some connection to the murder and she is determined to work out how.
I absolutely loved the character of Sam in the first book and she has lost none of her drive or feistiness since moving to the city, despite her boss’s best efforts to keep her ‘in her place.’ She has a natural aptitude for police work and is determined to do her bit, whatever the personal cost, which makes her an admirable and entertaining protagonist for the story. We also get to see more complications in her personal life in this book through her relationship with her parents, and a potential new love interest, which serves to give the reader further human connection with Sam and draws us further into her story. I was hooked in from the start, firmly on Sam’s side and willing her to solve the case and prove her worth in her new role.
Even if I hadn’t read the first book, I would still have been tempted to pick this up, as I am a sucker for a book with a circus theme so the cover alone would have drawn me in and this book would work perfectly as standalone for anyone who hasn’t read the first one. The circus provides colour and excitement to the story, and some healthy moments of humour and pathos, which gives the book a really nice balance. Thus us one thing I find particularly attractive about Vanda’s writing, she manages to balance the light and shade beautifully to give the reader a real series of highs and lows throughout the story which makes for a very rewarding reading experience.
New Zealand plays a distinctive role in these books, and it was nice to discover a new side to the country with the author’s descriptions of the setting, scenery, flora and fauna of the area. I think the Kiwi flavour is a big part of what makes these books a standout for me, and such an enjoyable read. That, together with the easy flow of the writing, the great characterisation and a gripping plot, of course! I did feel that there was one tiny loose end that wasn’t quite tidied up satisfactorily to do with the motivation behind one of the sub-plot points (it’s hard to say more without including a spoiler) but it wasn’t a major let down for the book, more a niggle for my particularly anal brain. All in all, this was a very satisfying read and I look forward to reading the next one.
I have bought a paperback copy of this book, you should too.
The Ringmaster is out now and you can buy a copy here.
Make sure you visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour to get a range of views on the book:
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.
Connect with Vanda:
Facebook: Vanda Simon