23 November 2008

Review: OVERKILL, Vanda Symon

Penguin Books New Zealand, 2007, 331 pages, ISBN 978-0-14-300665-7

Unsuspecting, Gabriella Knowes invited death into her house. The reader knows that from the first paragraph of the prologue in Vanda Symon's debut novel. What we learn too in the first few pages is that this is a targeted kill.

To the lone young police constable in Mataura, Sam Shepherd, it first of all looks as if Gabriella may have committed suicide. But Sam is no fool, and she realises that there are things that just don't fit that scenario. But who would want to kill Gabriella, a young housewife, and why?

The investigation quickly passess out of Sam's hands. Within hours, the Mataura Elderly Citizens Centre becomes the centre of operations, a collection of CIB detectives from as far afield as Invercargill and Dunedin are called in, and a forensics team has been flown in from Dunedin. And then the investigators learn that Sam once had a live-in relationship with Gaby's husband. Sam is suspended.

It is rare that a book captures me for a whole afternoon, or that I read it in one sitting as I did this one. OVERKILL is a wonderful page-turner. Sam Shepherd is a gritty character, persistent, intuitive, a lateral thinker, a police constable who has always wanted to be a detective. Despite her suspension from duty she can't leave things alone and it is her persistence that finally solves the why and the who. In OVERKILL Vanda Symon has given Sam a sounding board in Maggie her flatmate. I liked her so much that I hope we see her in another novel.

The setting for OVERKILL, the southern part of the South Island of New Zealand is important for two reasons. The first is that it explains Sam's position as lone constable in charge of a small town police station. The second relates more closely to explaining why some one decides to "deal with" Gabriella Knowes. It is a setting that feels very authentic to me.

Well, I bought a copy of the next book, THE RINGMASTER, when I bought OVERKILL. I'll have a hard time preventing myself from promoting it up my reading list in the next week or so. There's an extract from RINGMASTER at the end of OVERKILL. It is also a Sam Shepherd title.

My rating: 4.8

From Vanda's blog:
When I'm not writing Crime novels I'm busy being a Domestic Goddess and queen of my household in Dunedin. The first in my Sam Shephard detective series, Overkill, was published by Penguin New Zealand in 2007. The Ringmaster was released in August 2008. The German translation of Overkill, Ein Harmloser Mord was published by Blanvalet in October.

Explore Vanda's blog and her website for yourself.

If you are outside New Zealand, you will be glad to know that in Australia you can get both titles through Angus and Robertson; the Book Depository in the UK lists them, but they are out of stock; and Amazon UK lists OVERKILL.


Vanda Symon said...

Thank you Kerrie, made my day (-:

Kerrie said...

April 2009 "goodreading" magazine has a review on page 38 of OVERKILL which gives it 4 stars and Highly Recommended.
Unfortunately the online version doesn't let you read the current mag for free.
You might be able to get a copy from a news agent or book shop.

Anonymous said...

Here is the text of the Good Reading review:

Vanda Symon

Overkill marked a bold beginning for a new voice, and a new hero, in crime fiction. Former pharmacist and Dunedin-based debutant author Vanda Symon wastes no time, immediately stunning readers with an opening-pages haymaker, as an intruder forces a stay-at-home mother to submit to her own death, in order to save her baby daughter.

Soon after, sole-charge rural policewoman Sam Shepherd finds herself co-ordinating the search for the missing mother, and then investigating the looks-like suicide drowning once the body is found. The case is complicated by stroppy Sam’s clashes with authority, her past connections to the deceased’s husband, and the finger of blame beginning to point her own way. She soon feels like a pariah amongst the salt-of-the-earth citizens of small-town Mataura.

Overkill is an excellent first novel from a talented storyteller. Symon nicely balances action, character and story in a well-drawn rural New Zealand setting, and realistically speckles the book with light-hearted moments and humour throughout. Symon drops Sam right in it (literally in one case), and the reader can’t help but be taken along for the ride, willingly and wonderfully.

Symon builds the book to a satisfying conclusion, weaving throughout real issues relevant to such rural communities, along with the loves, hates, hopes, and fears universal to people anywhere. Highly recommended.

4 Stars Penguin $24.95
Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Kerrie said...

Thanks for dropping by


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