Overkill by Vanda Symon #BookReview #BlogTour

When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems. Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast said her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands. To find the murderer ... and clear her name. A taut, atmospheric and page- turning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers.

I'm thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Overkill by Vanda Symon today. My grateful thanks to the author, publishers, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance ecopy of the novel.

I love a new crime series and I've been looking forward to reading Overkill ever since I saw that stunning cover back in February. Within a few pages I knew it was going to live up to my high hopes as I found myself totally gripped by one of the most unforgettable prologues I've read for some time. From the very first paragraph we know that Gabriella Knowles is going to die;
'The day it was ordained that Gabriella Knowles would die there were no harbingers, omens or owls' calls. No tolling of bells.With the unquestioning courtesy of the well brought up, she invited Death in.'
We don't know who the killer is at this point, or why they've decided Gaby must die. What makes this scene so memorable is the cold, calculated manner of her death. It's undeniably chilling but there's also something desperately sad about it.
Local officer Sam Shepherd assumes Gaby's death is a suicide at first but when things don't quite seem to add up, she soon realises the small town of Mataura has played host to a murderer. Sam lived with Lockie before he married Gaby and still has feelings for him but she doesn't realise just how personal the case will become until she is suspended from duty under a cloud of suspicion. She just wants to do her job and discover the identity of the killer but instead finds herself on the list of suspects, with the suggestion that she murdered her love rival then used her position to cover up the evidence.
I loved Sam, she is a such a fantastic protagonist and in a book which has so much to praise, I think her character may be the pinnacle of the novel. She is a determined, self-deprecating and fiercely ambitious woman who refuses to let her gender or small stature stand in her way. She is also headstrong, sarcastic and has a tendency to let her mouth run away with her, which often gets her into more trouble. I've been trying to think of words to describe Sam and the one that really springs to mind is normal - she answers the door in her pyjamas, gets drunk at the pub when she messes up and knows she is lucky to have straight-talking, Toffee Pops sharing, Maggie as her flatmate and best friend.
There's often a sense of claustrophobia about small town dramas and here it is best expressed by the community's reaction to Sam's suspension. Though some of the residents rally around her, others are less forgiving and it's easy to empathise with her torment when she knows everybody is talking about her and questioning whether she could be guilty. The colloquialisms and idiosyncrasies of the townspeople mean they are brought vividly to life along with the area they live in and I loved the little extra touches of detail Vanda Symon adds to the story; from Horse the tabby, named after the cat in a long running New Zealand cartoon, Footrot Flats to an impassioned diatribe on the damage possums have done to the country.
The plot itself is fast-paced and utterly intriguing. I had no idea who killed Gaby, or why and the short, pithy chapters lent themselves perfectly to "just a few more pages" as I couldn't resist reading on to see if my suspicions were correct (they usually weren't!). Overkill really is the perfect police procedural; it has a tantalising mystery, a brilliantly engaging lead character, a compelling cast of potential culprits and a striking sense of place. I'm truly excited to read the next Sam Shepherd book and am so thankful to Orenda Books for bringing this superb series to the UK.

Overkill is published in the UK by Orenda Books and purchase links can be found here.

Don't forget to check out some of the other stops on the blog tour, especially my fellow host today, Janel over at Keeper of Pages.

About the Author
Vanda Symon (born 1969) 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 hit number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.
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  1. Huge thanks as always for your blog tour support Karen x


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