The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.
The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation.
And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.
I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour to celebrate the publication of this novel from one of my favourite crime novelists and Orenda Favourite, Vanda Symon,and would like to thank Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater of Random Things for the tour invitation otherwise I might never have discovered this original, gripping and unforgettable series of books! It’s given me yet another reason to thank the good Lord that I discovered Orenda Books and that I’ve been able to sample such a wonderful range of crime fiction from other countries through their list!
Bound is book number four in the Sam Shephard series and I have been looking forward to reading it for months, having read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the three previous books in this series – I am delighted to say that this was an extremely worthy successor to the three existing books and I could not sleep until I’d finished it last week…
If New Zealand is only in your mind because of Lord of the Rings and its impressive Prime Minister, then you are in for an amazing surprise once you get hooked on its crime fiction. It really is unique in its flavour and once you’ve started, you’ll be totally hooked. This series of novels has a very different feel than some of the other crime fiction I’ve read in the past and I loved the way that it mixes the elements of the crime novel with Sam’s feisty and direct personality and snippets from her personal life so credibly which really appeals to me as a reader. Three novels in, I am really enjoying the feeling of ‘knowing’ these characters and it meant that I was completely at home once I plunged into the storyand felt like I was working alongside her to solve ths case…
I love reading novels that pull me right into the story and this was marvellously on form in this regard. We are totally caught up in the Hendersons’ attack and as intrigued as Sam is by the way that the presenting evidence just doesn’t quite add up to the ensuing narrative that emerges from the survivors. It transported me to New Zealand right alongside Sam and her team and made me obsessed with solving the case and trying to guess where this story would take us next. I don’t think I’ve read a novel recently that kept me on my toes as much in terms of ‘solvability’ – it seemed like each new piece of information pointed me in a new direction and I was absolutely kept on the hook until the end. I really enjoyed this clever writing and rather than waiting for a ‘big reveal’ it felt like I was unravelling clues with the team and trying to get to the bottom of this in partnership with them.
This is an absolutely immersive read, it’s as rich in setting as it is in plot, allowing you to be swept off to the beauty of New Zealand and see Dunedin for yourself. It had never been somewhere that I’d have been desperate to see – but I found myself browsing online for flights ‘once this lockdown is all over’ and trying to see some of these places for myself as they sounded so stunningly beautiful. I am enjoying ‘travelling’ through my books at the moment as we’ve been ‘grounded’ for the last year and I am thoroughly enjoying being a vicarious traveller through Orenda books’ catalogue!
Bound skilfully blends together the crime with Sam’s personal life as her father’s health deteriorates and she is caught between solving the case and dealing with her father’s decline and her somewhat traumatic relationship with her mum. Her relationship with her team at work is as demanding as her personal life and the harsh nature of the job at times is vividly drawn, To me, these diverse elements come together to provide a highly satisfying read as they are woven together so seamlessly in exactly the right proportions that make for an absolutely engrossing read that holds you tight as you get drawn into the mystery of the Henderson case whilst feeling empathy for the difficult circumstances that Sam is trying to juggle personally – and as you’ve become so drawn to her across the series, you feel even more protective of her as she struggles with both difficult work dynamics and challenging family demands.
New Zealand has become a character in its own right throughout these books and I felt like Vanda Symon has really brought the stunning landscape vividly to life – blending its remote beauty with the personality of its inhabitants and making us think about the fact that even in the most gorgeous areas, murders can happen and that sometimes there can be just as much violence, hatred and revenge bubbling beneath its slower paced life than any metropolis. If like me you are missing travel, then its sense of place is hard to beat. It was wonderful to escape from work and spend time in the beauty and splendour of this gorgeous country and just like the other books in the series, once I’d started on this plot, I just could not tear myself away until I’d got to the bottom of it with Sam and her team.
Vanda Symon is a talented and perceptive writer whose characters spring off the page and come to life for you as you try and work for the answers alongside them. Sam is one of my favourite characters in crime fiction– she is a woman who pushes herself to the limit to follow her gut instincts and we absolutely empathise with her as she has her own life to navigate as well as the murder to solve during this investigation. I enjoy the fact that we feel like we are meeting an old friend on the pages and am always sad to leave her behind at the end of the novels and happy once I can be reunited with her again when a new one is published.
Bound is a superb blend of skilful plotting and well-crafted characters that stands out to me due to its deft manipulation of the reader and the way it keeps us guessing as well as its strong sense of place. Sam’s winning combination of toughness and vulnerability means that she is absolutely real for us as we read and I’d love to see her brought to life on the screen. This series of books is one of my absolute favourites and it would be amazing to see it optioned and be able to watch Sam’s adventures unfold on screen. Move over Sandi-noir, it’s time for some Kiwi fiction to take the front stage and show you that there is much more going on on the other side of the world that you might have imagined…
Buy yourself a copy of this fantastic read here, and follow the blog tour to hear the thoughts of these other bloggers too
‘A really strong mystery with a twist that works very nicely … The family dynamic and Sam’s dealing with the trauma are brilliantly observed’ NB Magazine
‘If you like taut, pacy thrillers with a wonderful sense of place, this is the book for you’ Liam McIlvanney
‘Vanda Symon’s work resembles Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series she knows how to tell a good story and the NZ setting adds spice’ The Times
‘Atmospheric, emotional and gripping’ Foreword Reviews
‘A plot that grabs the reader’s attention with a heart-stopping opening and doesn’t let go’ Sunday Times
‘Powerful, coolly assured, and an absolute belter of a read’ LoveReading
‘It is Symon’s copper Sam, self-deprecating and very human, who represents the writer’s real achievement’ Guardian
‘Fans of The Dry will love Vanda Symon’ Red Magazine
‘With a twisty plot, a protagonist who shines and beautifully written observations of the cruellest things this is crime fiction at its best’ Kiwi Crime
Writer On The Shelf
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.
Twitter ~ @vandasymon