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.
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…
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.
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.