Overkill & The Ringmaster: A dual #bookreview of the Sam Shephard series by Vanda Symon @vandasymon @OrendaBooks

Hi everyone! And welcome to my second dual review! If you missed the first one (on Blue Night / Beton Rouge by Simone Bucholtz, also from Orenda Books), it’s right here!

When I turned the final page of Beton Rouge a few months ago, I felt a little sad: the main character was such a feisty sassy ballsy gall and I thought I’d have to wait months to read another novel with that kind of spark (i.e. a new Simone Bucholtz novel). Oh but I should have known better! I should have known Orenda Books would have my back and provide me with other stories with equally badass heroines! Now, I did know about Overkill, I’d had Overkill on my e-reader for ages, but you know the old cliché of too many books too little time and so Overkill had been gathering figurative dust on my figurative bookshelf. I know, I know, shame on me. Anyway, when the ever so amazing Karen Sullivan surprised me with an ARC of The Ringmaster, a.k.a. the second book in the Sam Shephard series, I knew the time had come to finally read Overkill. And as Vanda Symon pointed out to me on Twitter: her first name is a part of my last name! I mean I didn’t even realise, but that means it was meant to be, right! Kizmet and everything! I’m digressing again, aren’t I? If I’m not careful I’ll end up like Mart, over on The Beardy Book Blogger, with blurbs popping up in strange places, and puff pastry and god forbid, Quality Street, imagine that! You guys do know Mart, right? I “met” Mart last year and I feel like we kind of bonded over our love for all things Orenda, particularly Louise Beech. Mart does love Louise, and you know I’ve been professing my love for her left, right and centre (if you don’t know, you haven’t been paying attention), so if that isn’t common ground, I don’t know what is. Anyway, we’re not here to talk about Louise! We’re here for her equally lovely, equally curly-haired, New Zealand peer: Vanda Symon, who created Sam Shephard, a feisty, sassy, sarcastic but very competent (professionally anyway) police officer, tiny in stature, but with a mouth big enough to compensate her lack of height.

In Overkill we meet Sam as she tries to solve the murder on Gabriella, Sam’s ex boyfriend’s wife / mother of his daughter. The story takes a flying start with Gaby being murdered. Although the killer makes it look like suicide, Sam soon figures out that things don’t add up and Gaby didn’t kill herself, but how can she find the killer when she herself becomes a suspect? When she conducts her own off the record investigation, while not afraid to kick some brass butt on the way and often with a hint of sarcasm, she realises that this murder is only the tip of the iceberg, and this case runs a hell of a lot deeper than anyone ever suspected. And I loved that! I loved where this novel took me, the journey Vanda led me on, starting out with a murder in a rather sleepy little farmers’ town and ending up… well not where I thought I’d end up, that’s for sure! Start to finish this is a suspenseful thriller with a very entertaining lead character. Turning the final page, I was so happy to have come to the Sam Shephard party so late, since it meant I could dive into the second novel sooner rather than later.

In The Ringmaster, the second installment in the series, we get to know Sam a little better. You don’t have to have read Overkill to enjoy The Ringmaster, but I would recommend it anyway, to get the full picture if nothing else. Moreover, if you’ve read the one, you will want to read the other, might as well do it in the correct order!

After all the shit that happened to Sam in Overkill, I was happy to see that in The Ringmaster, she’s finding her way in Dunedin. Sam’s best friend Maggie is there, and they’re both living with Maggie’s aunt and uncle. I have to say though, I had a bit of an issue with Uncle Phil (not the guy, just the name): in my mind “Uncle Phil” will always be a heavyset, African American lawyer who lives in Bel Air, not a Caucasian professor who lives in Dunedin!

There’s also the ruggedly handsome Ben Affleck lookalike who’s been hanging around. The observant reader might notice a certain spring in Sam’s step when he’s near, a certain gleam in her eyes, but Sam would not be Sam if she didn’t fight that (she’s too stubborn for her own good, that girl!)

Unfortunately for Sam (but fortunately for us, because we like our rides to be wild and stormy, do we not), life is not all puppy dogs and rainbows. Remember that brass butt she kicked? Is now her superior officer and direct boss. Yeah, that goes about as well as you’d think. Naturally, Sam would not be Sam if she took it all lying down, oh no, she might need a minute to compose herself, but the girl has spirit!

Then there’s of course the case at hand. Or rather, the cases at hand. Shit hits the fan, and, you know, it being a circus with animals, among which an elephant, there is quite a lot of shit to hit the fan… A very though scene in there as well, where Vanda deftly reduced me to a weeping mess.

Red herring after red herring, both for the police and the reader, but you guys, I FIGURED IT OUT, I got there before Sam, halle-bloody-lujah, I’m flippin’ DC material, is what I am! *cackles madly* Hmm, okay, maybe not.

Overall, a suspenseful, hilarious read, and highly recommended!

The Ringmaster is out today in eBook format so grab it while it’s hot!

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