The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon @vandasymon @OrendaBooks #review @annecater

Today it is my great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for The Ringmaster, the second book in the Sam Shephard series by Vanda Symon. A huge thank you to publisher Orenda Books for providing an advance copy for review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part. Here is what the book is about:

Source: Advance Review Copy

About the Book

Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand

Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…

Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…

Rich with atmosphere, humour and a dark, shocking plot, The Ringmaster marks the return of passionate, headstrong police officer, Sam Shephard, in the next instalment of Vanda Symon’s bestselling series.

Available from: Amazon | Waterstones | Kobo | Playstore | Apple Books | Blackwells

My Thoughts

Well … what do we have here? Book two in the Sam Shephard series by Vanda Symon and life isn’t getting any easier for our favourite New Zealand Detective. She should have everything she wanted having been fast tracked to be a Detective in Dunedin, but given that she ruffled a few feathers the last time she got involved in a murder investigation, she doesn’t have many friends on her new team and isn’t given much opportunity to prove her worth either. Not that it stops her and even being sidelined to babysit a visiting circus won’t prevent her from investigating just who is committing some pretty vicious murders across the city.

From the very beginning of the book you know what you are letting yourself in for as we come face to face with the, thus far, anonymous killer. Throughout the chapter you can feel the tension building, but I still wasn’t prepared for the way in which is ended. Granted, perhaps not quiet as shocking or emotive as the opener to Overkill, book one in the series, but certainly still enough take me by surprise. And from here on in it becomes a question of whodunnit and why. There are no end of potential suspects, and with a travelling circus in town, the expected prejudices and mistrust come quickly to the fore.

I love the character of Sam Shephard. She is a no nonsense woman, straight talking but very human with it. Although she may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect Detective, she is determined, focused and a lot more intuitive and canny than some of her colleagues give her credit for. She has a true ally in fellow Officer Smithy, a man who probably has a bit of a soft spot for her too, but their partnership really works. With her boss, Detective Inspector Greg Johns almost permanently on her case, at least when he isn’t giving her trivial and pointless tasks to do, she needs someone to back her up. Thankfully at home she has her old flat mate, Maggie, to keep her grounded and, despite her best efforts to shake him off, fellow Detective Paul Frost is always on hand to back her up. There is good banter between them all, making the story feel very real and very relatable. Apart from the murder investigation bit, obviously.

The Ringmaster is a book which challenges the way in which people are prone to prejudgment and how suspicion always falls on those who do not bow to convention, in this case choosing a life with a circus over a ‘normal’ nine to five career. Yes, there is the moral question over the use of lions and elephants and monkeys in a live performance which is addressed in the book, the author giving voice to her characters concerns but also providing a balanced argument without forcing her own opinion on the reader, not an easy thing to do. But more importantly the book examines deep rooted prejudice, and when the finger of suspicion points towards the performers, it leads to one of the most emotional segments of the whole book. I’ll say no more here but, to the author, you know what you did… I had a proper blubby moment over that scene.

There are moments of great tension dotted throughout the book, times when as a reader I was kept on the edge of my seat wondering what could happen next. Once again Sam seems to find herself very much in someones sights, and the ominous messages left on her car only add to the suspense. Whilst life in Dunedin might usually be quite relaxed, life for Sam Shephard, and for use as readers, is anything but. Full of light humour, strong friendships, high stakes action and dark murderous intent, this book has a little bit of everything. Told primarily in first person from Sam’s perspective, this is a story where you will discover what is happening at exactly the same time that Sam does. Prepare to be surprised.

And to shed a few tears. Definitely prepare for that …

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.

Author Links: Twitter | Website

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