by Vanda Symon

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.


Vanda Symon was having some success in her home country of New Zealand with her crime novels, when she decided she would like to go for her PHD and for this reader she disappeared, although she was doing radio programmes and suchlike.

But Dr Symon has a powerhouse fan in Craig Sisterson, New Zealand crime fiction’s biggest fan (and now an author himself). Sisterson gave the publisher of Orenda Books one of Symon’s books and the rest is history. Or at least, a good leg up in Europe!

I’m guessing Symon is or has been editing her books for the European market, as the feisty Detective Constable Sam Shephard is a very Kiwi heroine and my (NZ) copy has a lot of Kiwi expressions – some like crib (holiday cottage) are only used in the South Island. It may be too much for foreign readers.When Symons writes about Port Chalmers and Dunedin (which I do know and love) and Aramoana (which i only know because of the Aramoana Massacre) I feel like I am walking along side Sam.

The looters at the start of the story make me think of the George Floyd riots in the States. (Pure coincidence this read came up now. Because of Lockdown I’ve had this library book for a couple of months, so I don’t think the library would allow me to renew it) The scene setting was great.

Most of the story was too, but I still think Symon puts a lot of her own opinions in Sam’s mouth. For example,Sam’s opinions of Otago student events the Toga Parade and the Undy 500 – cause of more riots) certainly sound like that of an older woman, as do Sam’s judgemental remarks on tattoos.

These minor failings – slow the story down, but don’t derail it. there is also quite a bit – always – about Sam’s personal life. Reminds me of Sue Grafton but Symon is a far better writer. However, I still don’t like her short chapters and think the story would flow better if the chapter numbers were halved

The ending was balls to the walls excitement! Symon put everything into her writing there. I loved it!

The only Symon I haven’t read is her fourth Sam book I’m going to get to this one as soon as possible. For all my carping, Symon is one of the best authors I have found for introducing a kiwi flavour into her work. This was a great book for my personal challenge to read more books by New Zealand writers.…

View all my reviews

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