OverKill by Vanda Symon
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. A taut, atmospheric and page-turning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers.
I would like to thank the author, publisher Orenda Books and blog tour organiser Anne Cater for the ARC in return for an honest review.
When I picked this novel up to read, I was looking for a book that would grab me and sweep me to the final pages with breathless excitement. Well it did and I loved it!
There were for me, so many things to like about this book. The setting is glorious and gives the novel a sense of originality. It has a determined and sassy heroine who strides through this fabulous story with purpose and a hint of vulnerability, making her one of the most believable heroines I have come across in quite a long time and that makes for a very refreshing and satisfying read. The character of Sam makes this novel and she does so with style. Not only is she a strong female lead, she is relatable to. She is not a perfect modern police women, but neither is she so damaged that she can only function with the support of a host of characters. Sam sits front and centre in Overkill with are a plethora of fascinating supporting characters.
Then there is the story itself, the murder of a young mum and wife in a small rural New Zealand community. The story felt to me to be a classic police drama, with a modern twist, set far away from the grim streets of our cities. Vanda Symon creates a first class drama which held me within its embrace from page one to the final sentence. I loved the claustrophobic feel of the small rural community setting that she created, where everyone knows your business and wagging tongues can destroy lives. It contained the story within a limited geographical area, that ramped up the tension to almost unbearable levels. As Sam looked for the killer, you could feel the imagined borders of the community closing in around her, danger at every corner, with forces threatening her and those she cared about. There were none of the distractions often seen in drama’s played out on a wider canvas, so all your focus was there with Sam in Mataura and that claustrophobia affected me, far more than I expected, leaving me anxious and worried that Sam would become another victim.
Why would I recommend his book? Because it is a superb read, written by an emerging New Zealand talent, who if the world is fair will draw a huge following in Britain. The characterisation is top notch, with a strong female lead whose vulnerability is neither overwhelming nor disabling for the story or the character herself. She is determined and written so well, that a series of books featuring Sam will be something I hope will be published in this country as well.
This is an exciting and intelligent read that If you love thrillers should be your next purchase
About the author.
Vanda Symon is the best-selling author of four Detective Sam Shephard crime fiction novels, published in New Zealand, including Overkill (Penguin, 2007), The Ringmaster (Penguin, 2008), Containment (Penguin, 2009), Bound (Penguin, 2011), and the stand-alone psychological thriller, The Faceless (Penguin, 2012). She is a three-time finalist for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Fiction Novel. Her books have also been published in Germany.
Author Kate Mosse has said: ‘Vanda Symon’s fast paced crime novels are as good as anything the US has to offer – a sassy heroine, fabulous sense of place, and rip roaring stories with a twist. Perfect curl-up on the sofa reading.’ Crimewatch has described Vanda as ‘part of a new wave of Kiwi crime writers… Symon’s talent for creating well-rounded characters permeates throughout’.
Vanda is the producer and host of Write On, a monthly radio show on matters literary on Otago Access Radio, and she also reviews books for National Radio. She is very involved in the New Zealand writing community, having been chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors, and is currently the Chair of Copyright Licensing New Zealand. Vanda also has participated in celebrity debates, acted as speaker, reader or chair in literary events and festivals in New Zealand and Australia, and toured with The New Zealand Book Council’s Words on Wheels.
Vanda has a professional background as a pharmacist and has recently completed a PhD in science communication, examining the communication of science through crime fiction.