Vanda Symon – Bound (Blog Tour)
Published by Orenda Books, paperback £8.99. I received a proof copy of the novel from the publisher for review purposes. Many thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.
First, the official blurb: The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters. The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.
I’ve been a fan of Vanda Symon’s for a while now, and of her creation, Sam Shephard, who is a breath of fresh air in the police procedural area of crime fiction. Young, female, impetuous and with a sense of justice that frequently threatens to derail her career, Sam’s adventures are always worth reading – and as a bonus we get to spend time in New Zealand without having to leave the safety of our sofas, a precious gift in these times of no travelling.
The prologue is brief but powerful and signals clearly that this will be a high stakes case. Sam is part of the team called to the luxurious but isolated mansion home of John Henderson: he’s dead and his wife Jill injured. The couple were found by their teenage son, Declan, with the first assumption that it’s been a home invasion gone horribly wrong. But talking to Jill the next day as she recovers in hospital, Sam learns that after John was shot and Jill tied up, no other threats were made, nor any effort at robbery. However, Jill confesses she had suspicions that John’s business interests weren’t all entirely legitimate…
A forensic breakthrough leads the team to two suspects, previously involved in the killing of a police officer – the case just got personal. Both are interviewed, both vehemently deny any involvement with the Henderson case. But there’s a link between them and John Henderson, and Sam and the team get the bit between their collective teeth in chasing this angle, including a brief but action-packed trip to Auckland which uncovers some of what brought the men together, yet nothing to suggest motive for a murder.
During all this, Sam is dealing – or rather, not dealing – with the fact her dad’s cancer is now terminal, and he’s not likely to leave the Dunedin hospice room he is moved to, far away from the family farm. Coping with her feelings about her dad and her troubled relationship with her mother by burying herself in work can only go so far, though, despite her burning belief on “bringing justice for all” after another murder victim linked to the case is discovered.
There are twists and turns and dead ends a-plenty as the team investigates, but it’s not until Sam is sitting at her desk, studying the case file in an effort to avoid facing her emotions, that she makes a breakthrough that shocks the officers (and the reader).
That moment is followed by a world of pain descending on Sam, which pushes the plot firmly to the side in favour of a heartbreakingly intense character focus which brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye. It’s safe to say there’s plenty of fallout to deal with in the next book in the series – though is there some positive news too? Maybe, just maybe…
The New Zealand setting gives us a different backdrop, different police procedures and even different cop coffee habits to the UK. But isn’t that part of the joy of reading about another country? It’s becoming more familiar to me as I follow the series, and I’m always eager to get back to Sam and her world. The series (this is the fourth to be published in the UK) has given us a string of imaginative plots and an evolving picture of Sam, but the events of Bound challenge both character and author more than ever, with the result being a more rewarding read. How far would you go to protect your family? What would you do to serve the greater good? These questions run through Bound, and the novel makes it clear there are no easy answers.
Sam is a character who lingers in the mind and makes me want more novels featuring her, and also makes me want to re-read what we already have, which may not sound like much but it’s actually one of the highest compliments I can give. The novels are becoming smoother and more assured, and it’s no wonder Symon has been shortlisted for awards several times – it’s only a matter of time until she’s a multiple winner; get caught up with Sam’s adventures now so you can be suitably smug in the face of all the newcomers when it happens.
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 been number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, Containment and Bound were both shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and Overkill for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. She lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.