Review ~ Blog Tour ~ The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon.

The Ringmaster Final Cover


The heart-stoppingly tense next instalment in the richly atmospheric, bestselling Sam Shephard series … for fans of The Dry


Death is stalking the southern 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…

Rich with atmosphere, humour and a dark, shocking plot, The Ringmaster marks the return of passionate, headstrong police officer, Sam Shephard, in the next instalment of Vanda Symon’s bestselling series.


‘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’ Kate Mosse


I would like to thank the author and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

What can I say other than The Ring Master is another superb book from the hugely talented Vanda Symon! I have been a massive fan since I read the first in this series, Overkill and was anticipating an exciting read when I started the new book and oh boy was I a happy reader when I finished his novel. It is electrifying, has a fabulous female lead, taunt and well paced story and I loved it.

What’s not to love. It has a sassy, independent female lead, who is a natural detective, with an intuitive understanding of the criminal mind. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not perfect, but then who of us are?   Her impulsiveness often gets her into trouble, but at the same time, it is what makes her a great character, you never know how she is going to react and it gives her an edginess that is often lacking in other fictional female detectives.  In this novel she has gone from being  the only police officer in small town New Zealand, to detective training in Dunedin and is very much at the bottom of the ladder, with a boss that actively derides her.  Yet she doesn’t let this crush her, Sam is made of stronger stuff and she is determined to find the killer of a young talented student, even if this places her own life in danger! It’s what I love most about her, the passion and unwavering determination to track down a killer and be the best detective she can possibly be.  Sam is a masterly creation and I could read about her forever and not get bored, because as the book series moves forward, so does she, ever developing and evolving as a character.

As for the story itself, it is intelligent and perfectly paced.  We are pitched head first into the murder of a university student and from there we follow Sams determined pursuit of the killer.  Frequently the writer took me down a dead end, making me think for a moment that I had figured out who the killer was, only for me to realise too late I had been utterly fooled.  I loved that, I hate figuring out who did what too soon and so this book was an utter delight to read.  Vanda Symon weaves a masterly tale, so utterly compelling that putting it down to do boring things like go to work, was actually quite painful.  I didn’t want to be ripped away from the cocoon the story had weaved around me and I certainly need to be sure that one of my favourite characters would survive to feature in even more gripping tales!  I loved the way the circus played a central part in the story as it gave it a unique feel. Not only the protesters who were trying to get it closed down and Sam’s intelligent and amusing reaction,  but for the unexpected ways it added a sense of pathos to the story.  I expected to be thrilled reading this book, it is a detective story, but I wasn’t expecting the moments of sadness which added an emotional depth to the story and made it much more than your typical thriller for me.

The Sam Shephard series has so much to recommend it and I absolutely adore it. Without a doubt I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to any reader, both as a standalone novel and part of a pretty special series of books.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author

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Vanda Symon (born 1969) 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 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.

You can follow the author on her Website and Twitter.

The Ringmaster blog poster 2019 (1)

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