Containment by Vanda Symon #BookReview #BlogTour

Dunedin’s favourite young police officer Sam Shephard is drawn into a perplexing investigation when a series of shipping containers wash up on a sleepy New Zealand beach, and a spate of unexplained deaths ensues…

Chaos reigns in the sleepy village of Aramoana on the New Zealand coast, when a series of shipping containers wash up on the beach and looting begins.

Detective Constable Sam Shephard experiences the desperation of the scavengers first-hand, and ends up in an ambulance, nursing her wounds and puzzling over an assault that left her assailant for dead.

What appears to be a clear-cut case of a cargo ship running aground soon takes a more sinister turn when a skull is found in the sand, and the body of a diver is pulled from the sea … a diver who didn’t die of drowning…

As first officer at the scene, Sam is handed the case, much to the displeasure of her superiors, and she must put together an increasingly confusing series of clues to get to the bottom of a mystery that may still have more victims…

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Containment today. Many thanks to Vanda Symon, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

While so many of us are currently contained in our homes to one extent or another, we can at least travel the world through books and so I was delighted to be transported to Dunedin in New Zealand and reunited once again with Detective Constable Sam Shephard. The Containment of the title refers not to people on lockdown or a disease-management strategy but to the shipping containers that wash up on the shore when a cargo ship runs aground off the coast at Aramoana. With scores of locals claiming salvage rights, the beach is soon full of desperate people hoping to strike lucky. However, a shocking discovery means the police are called for and Sam is one of the first on the scene.
Sam refuses to let her small stature or gender stand in her way but a violent altercation leaves her physically and emotionally battered and during the course of this novel it's frequently fascinating to witness the more vulnerable aspects of her character. This is perhaps most obvious in her relationship with Paul when her issues with commitment means she risks what seems to be a really good chance of happiness with a decent, loving man. She has her flaws; most notably her inability to express her emotions calmly and she has a very short fuse but these are such regular foibles, it means she is a far more believable character than the archetypal tortured detective.
The strong characterisation is a real highlight of Vanda Symon's writing with each member of the cast being vividly brought to life, not least Sam's petty, odious boss, Jack. He continues to find ways to belittle her and to try and hinder the progression of her career, and for the most part, he's the sort of character readers love to hate. Fortunately, she has a better relationship with many of her other colleagues. It's the closeness she shares with Maggie that I enjoy most, however. Maggie is exactly the warm, supportive yet unflinchingly honest person that Sam needs in her life and though she may struggle to commit romantically, this loving friendship demonstrates she is able to form some long-term relationships.
The witnesses and suspects who she crosses paths with during the course of Containment are equally as well rendered. The discovery of a body brings her into contact with some of Dunedin's student population but some prove to be frustrating leads, with their laissez-faire attitudes meaning their knowledge of their friends' whereabouts are somewhat hazy. The sense of place is always a highlight of this series, particularly when it comes from the spoken word  and the names the some of the students are known by reflects the Kiwi propensity for employing nicknames. Many are the 'Jonesyfying' type, where an 'ey' sound is added to the end of a surname but a few are much more memorable, especially Frog and Spaz. As a person with cerebral palsy, Spaz's nickname is decidedly un-PC and it's something that Sam struggles with until she gets to know him and discovers his reasons for preferring  - and therefore reclaiming - what is of course, often a horribly offensive term. Spaz is a wonderful character; his disabilities are a part of who he is without defining him and he is also fiercely intelligent, with a wicked sense of humour.
The strong characterisation is matched by the perplexing mystery which presents Sam and her colleagues with so many difficulties - although Tamsin, a doctorate microbiology student with a particularly niche area of study involving the submersion of pigs' heads, is able to provide some invaluable (and scientifically authentic) forensic information regarding the timeline of events. The dry humour that runs throughout Containment is perhaps most evident in some of the more gruesome scenes and though a strong stomach is clearly required for certain aspects of this investigation, the morbid jokes reveal the protective mechanisms used by those whose work involves the darker side of life. There is a powerful emotional core to the story throughout; there are dramatic scenes of nerve-jangling tension, some more lighthearted parts and a few heartrendingly sad moments - the repercussions of which will undoubtedly be felt by Sam as this compelling series continues.
Although this is the third Sam Shephard novel, it can easily be enjoyed as a standalone. However, as always, I would recommend reading the previous books -  not only to fully understand the development of the returning characters but because these are great stories! Containment has a beautifully structured, perfectly paced plot which consistently surprised me, and with characters who leap from the page, this is crime fiction which couldn't fail to keep me utterly engrossed from the atmospheric, startling prologue through to an epilogue which promises so much - both professionally and personally for Sam - in the next book. I can't wait to read it but in the meantime, I cannot recommend Containment highly enough, I loved it!

Containment is published by Orenda Books and in these difficult times, Karen Sullivan has announced an initiative to help book buyers and independent book stores by offering to post out any Orenda titles directly to customers that the shops don't have in stock, so do try to purchase from one of our wonderful independent shops if you can. Alternatively buy from Hive who are currently doubling the commission they give to independent bookstores. Containment can also be purchased directly from Orenda's ebook store  or ordered from any of the big name book vendors.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

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 climbed to 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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