• West Cork Literary Festival 2021

Containment by Vanda Symon

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Crime/Thriller

By Swirl and Thread

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Containment is book 3 in the Sam Shephard series from New Zealand crime writer Vanda Symon. Published with Orenda Books, it is described as a ‘taut, atmospheric and page-turning police procedural set in rural New Zealand’. Kate Mosse describes Vanda Symon’s books as having ‘a sassy heroine, fabulous sense of place, and rip-roaring stories with a twist. Perfect curl-up-on-the-sofa reading’.

Containment is set in Aramoana, a small seaside town not too far from Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island. A container ship is grounded on the beach in this small community and the scavenging is feral for the contents of the shipment. Detective Sam Shephard happens upon the chaos one morning and is flabbergasted by the scene before her. With blatant looting rife, Sam intervenes and is rewarded with a knock out punch from a young man who seems determined to scoot off with his loot intact.

Sam is assisted by another local man who knocks her attacker unconscious with more violence than appears necessary but Sam is grateful for his intervention. The severity of the incident takes it’s toll on Sam, requiring some necessary time off work. Sam is not a good patient and as soon as is possible, with the nasty bruising and a few pains and aches Sam returns to work.

After the beach is brought under control, the local police try to retrace the ownership of the contents but first they need to track down all the looted goods, a task that requires infinite patience and determination. But a community is about to be shocked yet again….

A local fisherman recovers part of a body out at sea and, on her return to work, Sam is immediately sent to assist with the discovery. Sam is not prepared for what the divers discover and an immediate murder investigation is launched.

‘I’d seen and smelt some pretty disgusting things at home on the farm: carcasses in various stages of bloat and decay; entrails; effluent by the mile; but this beat all. The knowledge that this macerated, swollen, clearly scavenged-on piece of flesh was once a human being…..’

When the victim is identified Sam and her colleagues lead the investigation into the reasons for such a callous and brutal death. There are no obvious leads in this murder inquiry but with some intuitive research and joining up of the dots, Sam soon finds herself on a rather obscure track to unveiling the killer.

As Sam attempts to work her way through the evidence, she has to also deal with the constant animosity of her superior, DI Johns.

‘He had green eyes, kind of feline – verging on reptilian; they carried no warmth, in either colour or emotion. Combined with his short black hair, pale skin, and the dark grey suit with monochromatic tie he always wore, everything about him said cold-blooded.’

His attitude toward Sam is very undermining, but she is learning to bat away his comments, his snide remarks. Determined to rise above him, Sam puts her all into uncovering the truth behind the turmoil taking place. A murderer must be caught before any more bodies are discovered.

Containment is a highly entertaining murder mystery. Sam Shephard is a wonderful, fearless, energetic protagonist. With her personal story running in parallel to the investigation, we get an insight into the more vulnerable side of Sam’s personality, adding to the overall attractiveness of her character. Sam can be impetuous in her job but she takes things much much slower in her personal life. There is an interesting dichotomy depicted between Sam Shephard, the Detective Constable and Sam Shephard, the friend and lover. It provides the reader with a better understanding of the whole of Sam Shephard’s character, not just a one-dimensional version.

With short chapters, Containment moves along at a very snappy pace. DC Sam Shephard is resolute, fearless, sassy and completely unwavering in her fight for justice. Willing to take risks, Sam doesn’t always do her job according to the rule books, with her decisions very much based on her gut. Her attitude does little to impress her boss, DI Johns, but, she gets the all important results, which makes her a force to be reckoned with.

With great dialogue throughout, Containment is reminiscent of the old Hollywood style murder mysteries, with the wit and the deadpan humour you associate with that noir style. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for the feisty and plucky DC Sam Shephard!

Containment is a very realistic and highly enjoyable police procedural, one that is guaranteed to satisfy and please all looking for that classic murder mystery.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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