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…
I’m so delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for Containment by Vanda Symon, the third book in the Sam Shepherd series. I loved the first two books, Overkill and The Ringmaster (you can find my reviews of those here and here.) and could not wait to read this one. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for offering me a place on the tour and to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
Although this is the third instalment in the Sam Shepherd series, this book would work perfectly well as a standalone for anyone who is coming new to the novels. This book throws you straight in to the middle of the action and in to Sam’s distinctive world and character, as she finds herself immediately in the midst of an affray on a beach where locals are looting beached shipping containers after a wreck. Beaten, but coming back fighting, what at first seems like a minor issue of theft, spirals into something much more sinister as bodies begin to pile up, all linked to the wreck.
This author offers something new with every book, and this time we are confronted with the recovery and examination of a body dumped at sea (fascinating but fairly graphic and gruesome, steel your stomach), the law surrounding recovery of goods from wrecked cargo ships, the market in stolen valuables and the nefarious goings on of the local student population. All her books are packed with description and illuminating detail, meticulously researched and seamlessly stitched into the narrative until the setting and the world come to life for the reader through the text. At a time when we are all housebound, these are books that can take you to the other side of the world and immerse you in a totally different life for a few hours.
The books are well-paced, with short chapters that keep the momentum and new bits of evidence appear around every corner. In the same way a real investigation would unfold, this case starts out in one direction but gradually unfurls like a maze to become something entirely different, veering off in multiple directions and drawing the protagonists down a variety of obscure paths before they find the truth. It demonstrates how a mixture of great detective work, instinct and some pure luck can lead the police to the answer, and it may end up being more than one thing and very far from where they started. The plot is quite convoluted and complex, involving many different strands and characters, and the reader must focus to sort them out, mimicking the thought processes the police have to similarly go through to get there, but the writing is so accessible and flowing and the pace so quick that this is no chore.
Sam is a wonderful character, and she is the main draw for the books. She is small but feisty, brave, impetuous, honest but complicated, with a strong moral code and sense of loyalty. Some of her behaviour is totally outrageous, but she seems to get away with it because it comes from a positive place, a real desire to see natural justice served, which sometimes involves bending the rules. This does not always sit well with her boss, DI Johns, and the tension between the two of them plus throughout the text to add conflict. in addition, her personal life is no more straight forward, either with her blood family or in her romantic life. New developments add strain in this area, and things seem to be getting more complicated not simpler. There were certain matters in the book which were raised but not resolved, leaving me with theories about what might be coming in the next instalment, and eager to find out. However, do not fear, this book is perfectly concluded as a single story for readers who are not yet invested in this as a series, but i predict you will be once you sample Vanda’s writing.
The Sam Shepherd books are always a satisfying read, this one is no exception and I have added a physical copy to my collection. I eagerly await the next book in the series, and my next armchair visit to New Zealand.
Containment is available now and you can get your copy here.
Please make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:
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