Paperback published 6th September 2018 by Orenda Books / 272 pages

Many years ago I was lucky enough to visit New Zealand and just fell in love with everything about it. So, when the opportunity came up to read a book set in New Zealand by a New Zealand crime writer (how many times can I write New Zealand in this opening paragraph?) I jumped at the chance. Overkill was actually Vanda Symon’s debut novel back in 2007, but this edition is being released this coming September.

Overkill follows a classic crime mould – small town police officer, Sam Shepherd, suddenly finds herself thrust into a major crime when a local woman, Gaby Knowles, is murdered in mysterious circumstances. To make things even more complex for Sam, the victim is the wife of her old flame, Lockie, and Sam finds herself drawn into the case in ways she didn’t expect.

With a character led read like this, the said character is all-important, but for me, Sam Shepherd doesn’t quite have the finesse I’ve come to expect from my fictional detectives. Yes, she is strong, sassy and independent – all admirable qualities – but there is a thin line between sassy and petulant, and once too often I felt she crossed that line. Like all good police characters (think Harry Hole) she has an inability to follow orders and a rebellious streak BUT Sam seems to throw her toys out of the pram rather than deal with things in a mature way. This meant I couldn’t quite get fully behind her, which was a shame but it would be a boring crime fiction world if all police-leads were the same! As this is the first Sam Shepherd book in a series (of four) her personal development could be an interesting point to watch through the next books in the series.

But look, this is a good read, characters (much like people you meet in real life) are always going to elicit a subjective response, so I’m going to end on a positive – the secretive, cliquey vibe of a rural small town has been captured perfectly and plays an important role in the pacing and suspense of Overkill. This atmosphere means that every character we meet could be a potential suspect, so tensions are kept high and pages are kept turning. Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inclusion on this lovely blog tour! Get your copy of Overkill here.

Rating: 3.5/5

About the Author:

(From her website.)

Overkill was written while juggling the demands of a 6 month old baby and a two year old. Vanda suspects the prologue was written in a state of sleep deprivation induced paranoia brought about by middle of the night feeds and imagining every awful thing that could possibly happen to her family. None of them ever did. Reading that prologue still makes her cry.

A little time has elapsed and the six-month old and two-year old are now teenagers. As well as trying to raise two wonderful human beings, she has added three more Detective Sam Shephard novels to the series and written the stand alone psychological thriller, The Faceless.

As well as being a crime writer, she hosts a monthly radio show on Dunedin’s Otago Access Radio called Write On, where she interviews local writers, and catches the odd international super-star if they’re in town. And just to prove that she is a tiger for punishment, she has recently completed a PhD at the University of Otago looking at the communication of science through crime fiction – the perfect subject for a science loving crime writer. She has an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy and enjoyed a career as a community pharmacist and palliative care pharmacist before concentrating on her writing career.

Vanda has been involved with the New Zealand Society of Authors for many years and is a founding member of the Dunedin Crime Writers Association, whose raison d’etre is for its members to drink beer or wine and talk crime writing at their favourite pub.

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Overkill Blog Tour Poster

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