Expectant by Vanda Symon

A killer targeting pregnant women. A detective expecting her first baby…The shocking murder of a heavily pregnant woman throws the New Zealand city of Dunedin into a tailspin, and the devastating crime feels uncomfortably close to home for Detective Sam Shephard as she counts down the days to her own maternity leave. Confined to a desk job in the department, Sam must find the missing link between this brutal crime and a string of cases involving mothers and children in the past. As the pieces start to come together and the realisation dawns that the killer’s actions are escalating, drastic measures must be taken to prevent more tragedy. For Sam, the case becomes personal, when it becomes increasingly clear that no one is safe and the clock is ticking…


There is something innately comforting about returning to a character and a familiar series of books! Like cwtching up with a hot drink, sunk into your very favourite chair. The Sam Shephard series is one of those books, for which any other plans are dropped and the world outside ceases to exist. All that matters is the words and the story. Don’t misinterpret this to suggest that it is a cosy drama, it isn’t, but it is consistently welcoming and both the characters and story are compulsive and engaging. The minute I open the page, I know that me and Sam Shepherd are going to face danger, navigate tricky relationships and face evil.

In this, book five in the series, writer Vanda Symon tested my resolve never to read the last page of a book, to see if Sam and the child she is carrying survive. I never do this, but as the story progressed, I thought about it, just to relieve the building anxiety, to the point that my fingers teased at the pages and I came close to giving in. She built the tension up within the story to such a degree, it was like having a weight sitting on my chest. She took us from a horrifying murder, weaved in Sam frustrations at being confined to a desk job and ended it with a almost unbearable last few chapters. This created for me the perfect narrative. Because it allows the reader to take a breath and makes the next moment of peril Sam faces feel all the more menacing. You don’t see where the threat comes from and that creates venerability in the reader, when your ripped from the safety of a chat with friends, to the heroine face to face with a killer who just maybe the one that ends her life.

I love Sam as a character and I really like how we get to know her more with each installment. Here she is caught between boredom and frustration at being sidelined from the investigation because of impending motherhood. Now on it’s own it wouldn’t work, so added in is her compulsive nature, her passion for her work and a reckless disregard for her own safety and you have a character perfectly in tune with the story. The story needed her vulnerability to be at its maximum to work and it does, because it invests her in catching a killer of women just like herself. Without Sam Shepherd being so invested, it would simply be another run of the mill thriller, but it’s not because she is fighting not just to catch a killer and bring justice to the victims family, but to protect herself and her unborn child. As a reader, you love her passion, but her lack of regard for her own safety terrifies you. That is why I was tempted to read the last page, because of who she is and the sure and certain knowledge that this time, she might push her luck to far.

Once again the New Zealand Queen of crime, left me a bag of nerves and threatened to break my heart.

You can purchase this book directly from the publisher.

From Amazon and from Waterstones.

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.


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