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The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Crime/Thriller

By Swirl and Thread

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Marking the return of passionate and headstrong police officer Sam Shephard, The Ringmaster is the second book in the bestselling Sam Shephard Series, just released with Orenda Books.
The Ringmaster is the second book in this New Zealand based police procedural featuring the wonderfully spirited detective-in-training Samantha ‘Sam’ Shephard. Published by Orenda Books, The Ringmaster is set in Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island, home to the author and her family. Vanda Symon’s novels have been described by Kate Mosse as ‘perfect curl-up-on-the-sofa reading’ with The Guardian’s Barry Forshaw writing that ‘it is Symon’s copper Sam, self-deprecating and very human, who represents the writer’s real achievement’. So who is Sam Shephard? And what is The Ringmaster about?
Sam Shephard is a police officer with attitude. Transferred from the farming community of Mataura to Dunedin, the second largest city on the South Island, Sam is finding her feet. As a trainee detective, she knew that she would have issues with a few of her colleagues but she certainly hadn’t banked on the animosity and rancor she has to put up with from her immediate superior, DI Johns. Sam is living with her friend Maggie in the family home of Maggie’s uncle and aunt. This arrangement suits Sam, allowing her the independence that her job requires, but also the comfort of home cooking and a place to let off steam when needed.
Dunedin is a university city, milling with students throughout the academic year. It is also the home of a many a professor and educator, with any excessive violence an uncommon feature of life here. When the body of a female university student is discovered in the grounds of the famed Botanic Gardens, Sam is faced with her first murder investigation.

Sam came to Dunedin with a less than favourable reputation from Mataura and is kept on the outside of this new case, given the mundane jobs that no-one else wants to handle. But Sam is resilient and is prepared to put in the donkey work with her eyes on the future and her career.

Meanwhile, Sam receives a call to make her way to the location of a circus that has recently set up camp in town. Animal activists are protesting and the owner of the circus is peeved with the negative attention their actions are drawing to his business. Sam is from a farming background so she has great empathy for the chained and caged animals, but she also has to do her job.

With the murder inquiry picking up momentum and trouble at the circus grounds brewing away, Sam investigates all avenues, making some very unexpected discoveries., possible case-cracking revelations.

Sam Shephard is a vivacious and spunky heroine. With very little regard for her own safety, Sam fights the fight for truth and justice. She is cool and calm when required but she is also strong-willed and vocal when the situation arises.

The Ringmaster is a very atmospheric novel, very local in it’s descriptions of Dunedin, bringing the city alive to the reader. The Ringmaster is a mystery, a classic whodunnit, with a terrific plot and a gutsy protagonist at it’s core. Highly enjoyable read!

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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