Blog Tour – Picture of Innocence by T.J. Stimson @tessjstimson @AvonBooksUK @Sabah_K #PictureOfInnocence


I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Picture of Innocence by T.J. Stimson. Although Tess has written many books before, this is her first Crime novel. Thank you to Sabah Khan at Avon for inviting me to take part. I have an extract for you but first the blurb.


The Blurb

With three children under ten, Maddie is struggling. On the outside, she’s a happy young mother, running a charity as well as a household. But inside, she’s exhausted. She knows she’s lucky to have to have a support network around her. Not just her loving husband, but her family and friends too.

But is Maddie putting her trust in the right people? Because when tragedy strikes, she is certain someone has hurt her child – and everyone is a suspect, including Maddie herself…

The characters in this book are about to discover that looks can be deceiving… because anyone is capable of terrible things. Even the most innocent, even you.

Picture of Innocence

The Extract

No one who met Lucas and her separately would match them as a couple. And yet theirs had been a whirlwind romance, love at first sight. Four months after meeting in the jury room at Lewes Crown Court, they were married. Six years on, in defiance of the friends who’d said she had no idea what she was rushing into, they were as much in love as ever.

She’d known, of course, that Lucas must have baggage; as her best friend Jayne succinctly put it, no one got to thirty-four without a few fuck-ups along the way. But, recklessly, she hadn’t been interested in his past; only in their future, together. Even now, she still knew very little about his life before they’d met. He rarely talked about his childhood or adolescence, for good reason. When he was just thirteen, he’d rescued his four-year-old sister Candace from the house fire that had killed both their parents. Looking back now, Maddie wondered if their shocking bereavements had been part of what drew them together. She understood better than most that to survive tragedy, sometimes you had to close the door on the past.

But her first instincts had been right. He was a good husband, a wonderful father and stepfather. He brought her a cup of tea in bed every morning and rubbed her feet at night when she was tired. And they’d made beautiful children together, she thought fondly, as she put Jacob’s breakfast on the high chair in front of him. Both their sons were a perfect blend of the two of them, with ruddy chestnut hair and hazel eyes. Only Emily looked like she didn’t belong. She was growing more like her biological father with every passing year.


Sounds very intriguing! Is Lucas as good as he appears to be? Is there something Maddie is missing? And does Emily feel like a cuckoo? There’s only one way to find out what’s happening. To buy Picture of Innocence click here.


About the Author

Tess Stimson

T.J. (Tess) Stimson is the British author of ten novels, including top-ten bestseller The Adultery Club, and two non-fiction books, which between them have been translated into dozens of languages. Her first “proper” job after graduating from St Hilda’s College, Oxford (where she read English) was as a news trainee with ITN (Independent Television News). She reported and produced regional and world stories, travelling to hotspots and war-zones all over the globe.

In 2002, she was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Florida and moved to the US. She now lives and works in Vermont with her husband, Erik, their three children, and (at the last count) two cats, three fish, one gerbil and a large number of bats in the attic.

First Monday Crime Interview with Vanda Symon @1stMondayCrime @vandasymon @OrendaBooks

We have an international line-up for you on Tuesday 7th May. As well as our two UK authors, Mark Billingham and Deborah O’Connor, Chris Carter will be flying in from the other side of the Pond. But Vanda Symon is coming from the other side of the world, all the way from NZ! Vanda writes the Sam Shepherd police procedural series and Orenda Books has published the first two here in the UK – Overkill and The Ringmaster. I was fortunate to take part in the blog tour for The Ringmaster and you can read my review here.

Since Vanda is making such a long journey to be with us, I thought it would be good to find out a bit more about her and her books.


So Vanda, how did you get into this Crime writing business?

My children drove me to a life of crime. Seriously! I embarked upon my dream of writing when I had a six month-old and a two year-old. I knew I wanted to write but was not sure what to write, as I loved historic fiction as well as crime fiction. In the end it came down to a pragmatic decision on how practical it was going to be to do the research. Researching historic fiction required going to libraries, museums and archives, which were not fond of babies and their abilities to make noise, poo and spew. Researching crime fiction was far more accessible, so crime won. And I have absolutely no regrets!


Why did you decide to write police procedurals and how did you create Sam Shepherd?

Police procedurals seemed like the natural thing to do at the time. My husband’s step-dad was a retired police detective and he had some pretty interesting stories, and I also loved to read detective fiction. Sam Shephard originally started out as a man, yep, can you imagine? I had started writing Overkill from the perspective of a male detective, and I admit I was struggling to find his voice. Then one day my husband did something completely dumb-nut, and I thought – I don’t even understand the man I married, how the hell do I think I can write from the viewpoint of a man. So, I thought bugger this, and changed him to a her, and lo and behold, Sam Shephard (the woman) arrived fully formed and full of the insecurities and sass that we love.


In Overkill, you had a small town setting but you’ve moved to the big city for The Ringmaster. What have been the pros and cons for the location change?

I do miss the small town setting of Mataura, and the intensity of the relationships between people that small town claustrophobia brings. But Sam did need to move on from being a small town girl, to finding her way in a larger pond. This stretches and develops her as a character, and also the city setting brings a different range of crime when taking the long term view across a series. Dunedin for me is the perfect location, as it is not a big city by any international standards, but it is for her. It combines the scale needed for her to feel slightly adrift, but still has the friendliness and that ‘everyone knows everyone’ vibe.


Are there any differences between New Zealand Crime books and British ones?

At the heart of all crime fiction is human drama, and human drama is universal, so there will always be commonalities. Where the differences come in are in the physical locations (and I love that my publisher Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books has given me carte blanche to go for broke on the “Kiwiness” of a New Zealand setting) and the cultural psyche of a country. New Zealanders have a particular way of approaching life that is low key and doesn’t take itself too seriously. We embrace our Maori culture, as well as the vast array of cultures that make up our people. We try to be as inclusive as possible, even if we don’t always succeed, and I think on the whole we are an optimistic nation. Hopefully this comes through in the novels.


On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about appearing at First Monday Crime?

A thermo-nuclear 10!


Thanks Vanda for answering my questions!


If you haven’t yet booked, it’s not too late to reserve your seat! Just click here.

And remember it’s a Tuesday and not a Monday!


About The Author

vanda_jacket_br (1)

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 Shepherd 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.



Blog tour – #CallMeStarGirl by Louise Beech @louise_writer @OrendaBooks @annecater

call me star girl blog poster 2019

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Call Me Star Girl. I read this book over the Christmas holidays and it blew me away. Thank you Karen Sullivan for giving me a great Christmas present! And thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour.

The Blurb

Stirring up secrets can be deadly … especially if they’re yours…

Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.

Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.

Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

With echoes of the Play Misty for Me, Call Me Star Girl is a taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller that plays on our deepest fears, providing a stark reminder that stirring up dark secrets from the past can be deadly…

Call Me Star Girl Cover

My Review

This is a story told by mother, Elizabeth, and daughter, Stella, both now and then. I’d like to say they have a wonderful bond but Elizabeth walked out of her daughter’s life when Stella was 12.

It’s a story about secrets and lies and ultimately, truth.

But more than anything, it’s a story about love.

Stella McKeever has taken to the airwaves for her last radio show. It’s been a turbulent few weeks in West Hull after the murder of a pregnant young woman. Stella’s final theme is secrets and she wants her listeners to ring in. In particular, she wants the man who claims to know who her murderer is to call her.

The story weaves between the past and present of Stella and Elizabeth’s lives. To think of it in musical terms, the narratives are the melody over the ever-present bass of the final radio show. The tension is palpable and never lets up, building to a crescendo. But it’s the small details and touches that bring magic to this book – the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, Stella’s pink socks and a chopping board that has to be in the right place.

Call Me Star Girl made me smile, cry and gasp. But most of all it swept me away from the real world into a radio studio, late at night, with just one solitary person in the building. Louise Beech gets better and better each time. Call Me Star Girl has earned its place in my top ten reads for 2019.

To buy Call Me Star Girl click here.


The Author

thumbnail_Louise Beech

Louise’s short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail.

Her debut novel, How to Be Brave, was a Guardian Readers’ pick in 2015. The Sunday Mirror called Maria in the Moon quirky, darkly comic, original and heartfelt, and The Lion Tamer Who Lost was described as ‘engrossing and captivating’ by the Daily Express.




Blog Tour – Stasi 77 by David Young @djy_writer @ZaffreBooks @eturns_112 #Stasi77

Stasi Blog Tour GraphicIt’s my absolute pleasure to take part in the blog tour for Stasi 77. It’s the fourth Karin Müller novel and I’ve read them all. That’s how much I like them! Thank you to Ellen Turner at Zaffre Books for inviting me. Before my review though, the blurb.


The Blurb

A secret State. A dark conspiracy. A terrible crime.

Karin Müller of the German Democratic Republic’s People’s Police is called to a factory in the east of the country. A man has been murdered – bound and trapped as a fire burned nearby, slowly suffocating him. But who is he? Why was he targeted? Could his murderer simply be someone with a grudge against the factory’s nationalisation, as Müller’s Stasi colleagues insist? Why too is her deputy Werner Tilsner behaving so strangely?

As more victims surface, it becomes clear that there is a cold-blooded killer out there taking their revenge. Soon Müller begins to realise that in order to solve these terrible crimes, she will need to delve into the region’s dark past. But are the Stasi really working with her on this case? Or against her?

For those who really run this Republic have secrets they would rather remain uncovered. And they will stop at nothing to keep them that way . . .

A gripping and evocative crime thriller, moving between the devastating closing weeks of the Second World War and the Stasi-controlled 1970s, STASI 77 is David Young’s most compelling and powerful novel yet.

Stasi 77 2

My Review

When I add the blurb, I don’t normally add the ‘marketing bit’ but in this instance I have because I heartily agree with it. As I wrote above, I’ve read all of the series and this is definitely compelling and powerful.

Initially I found it to be a slightly slow start but in the long run this was helpful. It gave me a chance to get my head around the plot. Think of it as a train that’s pulling out of a station. It takes a while to get up to full speed but then it doesn’t stop until the final destination.

David Young has done his usual style of another story thread interspersed with Karin’s investigation. I knew the two would eventually link somehow but the reveal is devastating. I don’t want to give any spoilers but when reading, I wrote in my notes, ‘Did this actually happen?’ Sadly, the answer is yes. And that’s the wonderful thing about this series. You get a History lesson without realising it. It’s the authentic touches that make the difference. The description of the newly built towns – a vision in concrete it seems – and Karin’s belief in the Republic, brings alive a world that was hidden from the West.

Karin Müller is such a wonderful character. It’s a bit of a cliché but she really has been on a journey and David Young has turned her life upside down on several occasions. As Karin discovers, the Stasi will use anything to get their way, including her children. Although she’s been in tight scrapes before, this is Karin at her most vulnerable – alone and unable to trust anyone.

Throughout the novel, there are references to Karin’s past cases. As this is the fourth in the series, I would recommend reading the books from the beginning. Having said that, this could be read as a standalone. But the tie-ins from the past have got me thinking – is this the last novel? David Young is coming to my local library in May and I’m definitely going to ask him about this!

So, compelling and powerful? Absolutely. This is my favourite of the four without a shadow of a doubt. It takes a while to ‘bed’ in a character but we’re there with Karin Müller. We know she believes in the Republic but is wary of the Stasi. We know if she’s ordered off a case then she’ll find a way to solve it regardless. We know if Karin is pushed into a corner then she’ll come out fighting.  So I really hope she has more cases to solve. Especially as this is set in 1977. Another 12 years before the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Come on David, you know you want to.

You can buy Stasi 77 by clicking here.


I have the great honour of interviewing David along with Daniel Pembrey  at West Barnes Library (next to Motspur Park Station in SW London) on Tuesday 14th May at 7.30 pm. If you’d like to come you’d be most welcome. Just let me know or contact the library to reserve your place. £1 entry.

Euro Noir 2


About the Author

David Young

East Yorkshire-born David Young began his East German-set crime series on a creative writing MA at London’s City University when Stasi Child – his debut – won the course prize. The novel went on to win the 2016 CWA Historical Dagger, and both it and the 2017 follow-up, Stasi Wolf, were longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the year. His novels have been sold in eleven territories round the world. Before becoming a full-time author, David was a senior journalist with the BBC’s international radio and TV newsrooms for more than 25 years. He writes in his Twickenham garden shed and in a caravan on the Isle of Wight.



Book Review – Blood & Sugar by @LauraSRobinson @panmacmillan @rosiewilsreads #BloodandSugar

I first met Laura Shepherd-Robinson at CrimeFest in May 2017. I asked her when her book would be out and I was gobsmacked by her reply – January 2019! Publishing really does move slowly. I bought a copy at Laura’s launch at the beginning of this year but I’ve only had the opportunity to read it in the last couple of weeks. Was it worth the wait? I’ll tell you in a minute. First, the blurb.

The Blurb

June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark.

Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . .

To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend’s investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him.

And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford . . .

Blood & Sugar

My Review

I know the Brexit news is dire pretty much every day but it was particularly bad when I read Blood & Sugar. This debut novel was the perfect escape, transporting me back to 1781. It was the height of the slave trade in Britain where black people were not considered people but commodities – goods that could be sold or traded. Slavery is a stain on Britain’s history and no amount of scrubbing will wash it away. But Laura Shepherd-Robinson is not afraid to air the dirty laundry and she does so with great empathy.

Laura has clearly done her research. Her attention to detail is wonderful and I truly felt I was in the 18th century. It was a wrench to put it down and come back to the present day. Maybe it’s all the period dramas we have on TV but I could picture Captain Harry Corsham in his distinctive red army coat. There are wonderful descriptions throughout the book but the one that blew me away the most was the slave trade ship. I don’t want to give away too much but I barely breathed reading those scenes – the tension was so palpable.

I loved the character of Captain Harry Corsham. He’s a rare politician – of his time and of now – as he has integrity. At First Monday Crime, Laura spoke about principles and ambition in politics. Sometimes principles have to be compromised for ambition to be achieved. I love that Harry is willing to let go of his political ambitions to do what’s right.

There’s a cast list at the beginning of the book and it’s definitely needed. Thankfully, characters are introduced slowly and I only found myself glancing back to the list a couple of times just to confirm who people were. Oddly, I didn’t use the map at all but it’s always good to have a map.

Throughout the whole story, there’s the tension of justice and injustice, a tightrope that Harry Corsham has to balance on. There are times when this book isn’t easy reading. We are not spared the harsh reality of slavery. Although this is fiction, in her Historical Note at the end, Laura explains more about the factual elements behind the story.

Blood & Sugar is a complex novel with fiendish plotting at the heart of it. I couldn’t work out the killer (which normally makes me cross) but I loved finding out who was responsible, especially in such dramatic fashion.

I’ve used the word ‘love’ quite a lot in this review but I can’t think of a better one. At just over 400 pages, this is a weighty novel but it never once dragged and I reluctantly put it down to get some sleep. To put it simply, this is an astonishing debut. So yes, most definitely worth the wait!


About the Author

Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Laura Shepherd-Robinson was born in Bristol in 1976. She has a BSc in Politics from the University of Bristol and an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics. Laura worked in politics for nearly twenty years before re-entering normal life to complete an MA in Creative Writing at City University. She lives in London with her husband, Adrian. Blood & Sugar is her first novel.


April First Monday Crime with @1stMondayCrime @sophieglorita @RuthWareWriter @Phoebe_A_Morgan @K_RhodesWriter @carolinesgreen

Thankfully the April showers held off for First Monday Crime’s 3rd birthday. Helping us to celebrate was Ruth Ware, Phoebe Morgan, Kate Rhodes and Cass Green. Sophie Goodfellow was in charge of the questions. Now, you might be thinking, ‘Hang on, wasn’t Alex Michaelides meant to be there?’ He was but sadly couldn’t make it at the last minute. So Phoebe Morgan graciously stepped in and did a fab job.

FM April 19

First up, Sophie asked the authors to tell us a bit about their books.

Ruth Ware’s latest novel is The Death of Mrs Westway. Her main character, Hal, is a bit down on her luck. She has mounting debts and has taken some loans from very dubious people. When she receives a letter telling her she’s inherited money from her grandmother, it seems as though her luck may have changed. Except that Hal’s grandmother died a long time ago. There’s been a mistake. But Hal’s so desperate, she uses her skills as a fortune teller to get the money.

The Girl Next Door is Phoebe Morgan’s second psychological thriller. It’s set in a small community in Essex. A girl is found murdered. How does the community react?

Although she lives in Cambridge, the Isles of Scilly is the destination for Kate Rhodes latest series. Ruin Beach is the second Ben Kitto book after Hell Bay, which has been optioned for TV by the makers of Line of Duty.  In Ruin Bay, a diver is found dead and Ben has to investigate.

Cass Green writes standalones and her latest is Don’t You Cry. Imagine someone saves your life. You can’t thank them enough. How can you ever repay them? And then they tell you. Hmm, I have a feeling it’s not going to be good!


Something that Sophie had noticed about Ruth’s previous books were that they were about ordinary things that go wrong for the protagonist. But in The Death of Mrs Westway, things go well for Hal. Was this deliberate?

Ruth decided to do something different with this book. She wanted her protagonist to set the story in motion rather than have things happen to her. Hal was meant to be a bit of villain but Ruth liked her too much. The novel’s about inequality and is set in Brighton. Although it has a reputation for being cosy, Brighton also has areas of extreme poverty. Ruth also moved from 1st person narrator to 3rd. She wanted a more old-fashioned feel, in the style of Daphne Du Maurier and wanted to remove the reader a bit from the protagonist. She was also a bit bored of having an unreliable narrator.



There’s a vivid description of someone nearly choking to death in Don’t You Cry which quite unnerved Sophie. She wanted to know how Cass came up with that idea.

Cass tends to write about things that scare her e.g. choking and she was quite distressed when she wrote it. There are 3 viewpoints in the book but Angel, who literally saves Nina, is more of the main character. Cass had had the idea of Angel for a while and tried to use her in a different story but it didn’t work. However, she’s perfect for Don’t You Cry.


Kate’s novels are set on the tiny Isles of Scilly. With such a small population, there can be a pressure cooker environment which Kate uses to great effect. Often the young people leave. Whilst we may love the idea of a sea view, if all you can see is an ocean – it’ll make you want to leave. Sophie pointed out that small communities often band together. When Kate lived there for a month in the winter, she realised how much she needed to rely on neighbours. Initially the islanders weren’t too sure about her but they warmed to her after a while.


Phoebe’s novel is also set in a claustrophobic small community. Although there’s a murder, it’s essentially a story about a marriage. Jane is an upstanding member of the village. Her husband is a GP. But what goes on behind closed doors?


Sophie asked how the panel how they got into writing.

Cass was a journalist for many years. She wrote lots as a child and moved onto short stories at university. She started in YA novels before moving to crime. Her first published novel was actually the third book she’d written. So her message – keep persevering!

Kate was an English teacher and found she wanted to do the creative writing exercises her pupils were doing. She then did a PhD and became a university lecturer. She began writing poetry before moving onto short stories and novels. Poetry is a good discipline as not a single word can be wasted. Kate thinks that writing is 95% confidence and 5% talent.

Phoebe trained to be a journalist but wanted to do something more creative. She moved into publishing but also writing. Eventually she got an agent and a job as an editor. She’s had her fair share of rejections even though she was in the industry. You only need one agent and one publisher to believe in you. Her message is the same as Cass – perseverance!

Ruth was an avid writer from a young age and told her mother when she was 5 that she wanted to be an author. Her mother advised her to have a Plan B. She used to type her stories and by her teenage years she was writing full book length stories. Her imagination seems to work in 90k word blocks! Ruth became a publicist after university which gave her stage fright about her own writing. She didn’t want to send her work to people she knew. So like Cass, she started with YA novels and went the slush pile route. After publishing several YA novels, she wrote In A Dark Dark Wood and, as Sophie pointed out, ruined hen dos for ever.


Planner or Pantser?

Phoebe is a terrible planner. She starts with an idea or a character and then just goes with it.

Cass is turning into a planner. It’s a different experience for each book. The creative process is messy but she’s willing to try different things. Likes to have a plan of some sorts though.

For Kate, it’s like setting out on a journey without a map. Knows her destination but anything could happen on the way. But after once deleting 60k words, she needs a plan.

Ruth is half and half. Like Kate, it’s journey but she’s normally been thinking about it for a while. She knows the beginning and the end but the journey is a mystery.  She normally knows who did it and why. Important to give the reader a solution.

The authors mentioned the different techniques that others use such as post-it notes and writing the whole plan a roll of wallpaper. I think it was Cass who mentioned whiteboard sheets. If you don’t have space for a whiteboard, you can buy sheets that you can stick to your wall – sounds ingenious!


After some great audience questions, the evening ended with cookies for everyone and then we went in search of a pub – literally! Two were closed and another had a pub quiz. One was eventually found.

If you want to find out more about the authors and buy their books then click on their names

Phoebe Morgan

Cass Green

Kate Rhodes

Ruth Ware


Now, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, next month is May and of course, the pesky Bank Holidays. So First Monday Crime is changing, for one month only, to First Tuesday Crime on 7th May at 6.30pm at City University. Panel will be announced shortly and you can reserve your seat by clicking here.




Blog Tour – The Ringmaster by @vandasymon @OrendaBooks @annecater #TheRingmaster

The Ringmaster blog poster 2019 (1)

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon. New Zealander police officer Sam Shepherd burst onto the UK scene last year in Overkill. It was a stunning debut so I jumped at the chance to read the second in the series. Thank you to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for giving me the opportunity to read and review.


The Blurb

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…

The Ringmaster Final Cover



My Review

You have to give it to Sam. This woman gets knocked down more than a skittle but always seems to get back up again, if a little bruised. She really went through the wars in Overkill but she’s bounced back and moved upwards and onwards from solo uniformed officer to detective training and being part of a team. However, being part of a team has its drawbacks, mainly in the shape of DI Johns. Sam’s new boss is determined to make her life hell. On the plus side, Sam’s best friend Maggie has also made the move to Dunedin and her aunt and uncle are putting the two young women up. So life isn’t all bad. Until a young female student is murdered.

I don’t want to give any spoilers but Vanda Symon has given us another chilling and compelling Prologue, just as she did in Overkill. There’s an air of menace in it that then hovers over the storyline, making Sam (and the reader) ask the question – who is capable of such a crime?

Although the case is the main part of the plot, it was good to see more of Sam and how she’s adjusting to life in the city, as well as her family interaction and her love life. I know her better after reading this novel.

There are plenty of twists and turns and short chapters keep the pace moving.  Sam faces tough decisions in dramatic and traumatic circumstances which keeps the writing taut and makes for tense reading.

The move from a small town to a city is interesting. In Overkill, there’s a great sense of claustrophobia in Mataura – the small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. Or thinks they do. Dunedin, on the other hand, is anonymous. When Sam leaves a note on a car that’s blocking her parking space, it opens up a whole host of problems. For country girl Sam, moving to the city is proving tricky.

Overall, although I missed the small town setting a bit, it was great to see Sam Shepherd in a new challenge. There’s an interesting development at the end of The Ringmaster so I can’t wait to read book 3!

You can buy the e-book now or pre order the paperback by clicking here.


The Author

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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 Shepherd 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.