Reviews of books I've read and enjoyed written by other crime fiction authors is something I like to post here from time to time. Like me, I'm certain that many crime fiction fans appreciate the chance to hear about a great book they haven't heard about previously. Overkill, a novel written by New Zealand mystery/thriller author Vanda Symon is one of those books and one I recommend without reservation to those who enjoy a tightly written and well-plotted detective story.
Born in Tauranga, New Zealand, Vanda Symon is a crime writer and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the Chair of the Otago Southland Branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. Symon is a full-time writer and mother, and I was impressed to learn that her first novel Overkill, was written while juggling the demands of a 6-month-old baby and a two-year-old. As someone who requires almost total quiet to write, that's something I know I'd never been able to do.
While Overhill was first published in March 2007 in New Zealand by Penguin Books, a re-edited and updated edition of this first Sam Shephard series novel was made available as an eBook in June 2018. I stumbled across the book while reading an article published in Stuff.co.nz, a New Zealand news website that I follow. I checked out the book on Amazon. After reading the sample there, I decided to buy a copy and read it. I'm so glad I did
because not only did I find Overkill impossible to put down, Vanda Symon has since written and published four more books that I definitely plan to read.
The only downside is that at present only Overkill is available on Amazon or otherwise easily available to U.S. readers. I've learned that the second book in the Sam Shephard series, Ringmaster, will be available in April 2019. Hopefully, the rest of the books will soon follow as I believe Symon would find a large U.S. audience. I liked Overkill enough I've already ordered the paperback version of Ringmaster from the UK and am perfectly happy to paying the shipping to get it. When it comes to getting a good book in my hands, waiting until April for the eBook to be released was simply beyond the limits of my patience. Symon is really that good. Here the five-star review of Overkill I published on Amazon and Goodreads.
A white-knuckle ride with a likable, gutsy female protagonist
Written by New Zealand author Vanda Symon — Sam Shephard, a sole-charge police constable in Mataura (New Zealand), is called to investigate a tragic suicide when the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River. The case is complicated by the fact that the victim, Gabriella Knowes is the wife of Shephard's former lover Lockie Knowes. Things become even more complicated when evidence is uncovered that indicates Gabriella Knowes wasn't a suicide at all, but a murder victim.
After notifying her superiors that she has a murder case on her hands, Shephard attempts to cast aside her personal feelings and does her best to uncover evidence aimed at identifying Gabriella's killer. But, once the regional criminal investigators roll into the small rural community to take over the investigation, Sam finds herself on the suspect list and is suspended from duty when her past relationship with the victim's husband comes to light.
But Shephard is the kind of copper who only ever gives 100 percent to her cases. In spite of warnings from her superiors to stay away from the case, she undertakes her own off the books investigation of the murder. She’s just a little too independent-minded to leave her fate in the hands of others once the finger of guilt has been pointed at her. She must find the murderer, and clear her name. Shephard also feels an obligation to both Gabriella and Lockie to find Gabriella's killer.
Shephard is an engaging character. Far from a simplistic archetype, the author gives a great deal of insight into her psyche. The reader discovers that Shephard is still in love with the victim's husband which from the beginning is something she is forced to struggle with while she investigates the case. We see both strength and vulnerability in the character which serves to make her all the more realistic.
Symon is a fetching storyteller, and plotting is clearly one of her strengths. She presents a plausible story with all the extra details that make it stand out. Overkill is all about a young female police constable accused of a crime she didn't commit engaged in a battle of wits to clear her name and bring the perpetrator to justice as the noose tightens. With all the buildup to the denouement, Symon doesn't fail us and brings the story to a thrilling and dramatic finish. If you want to spend a few entertaining hours on a white-knuckle ride with a likable, gutsy female protagonist, then you won’t go far wrong with Overkill. It's clearly one of the best mystery/detective thrillers I've read this year, and I'll definitely be reading more from Vanda Symon.
Learn more about Vanda Symon by visiting her website http://vandasymon.com/index.php