Bound by Vanda Symon – Sam Shephard tackles crime in New Zealand with her usual headstrong instincts

Bound by Vanda Symon

Sam Shephard is a detective in the beautiful city of Dunedin in New Zealand. Beautiful, that is, unless you count the nasty endeavours of certain criminals who want to exploit the city and area with dubious substances and women who have few choices. Sam works in a police department where there are long memories for all of past crimes and present suspicions, so when a vicious home invasion takes place and a man lies dead, Sam must follow her instincts to unravel the truth, however unpalatable that may be. Already up against an imminent family tragedy, she must tackle (sometimes literally) those she encounters who are intent on hiding all sorts of truth. The fourth in a lively series of incredible and well written adventures, this book can easily be enjoyed as a standalone tale of a young woman police officer with an impressive instinct for people and many abilities, not least in terms of self defence. Written with a lively sense of humour as Sam describes everything in her own words, this is a “police procedural” that is compelling and human, a real page turner in all senses. The characters, even seemingly minor in the great scheme of things, leap from the page, while the settings stretch from the beautiful houses of the wealthy to the less salubrious areas of an intriguing city. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the fiercely independent Sam and her friends and family, and to review this amazing book.

The Prologue to this book reveals a nightmare. A woman sits bound to a chair, staring at the body of her husband John, messily dead at her feet. Determined to stay alive for her son, fear and pain overwhelms her. When Sam arrives on the scene later, being the female officer present she is the one to interview Jill Henderson in a long night, featuring the presence of her traumatized son Declan. Contact with her colleagues, apart from her lover Paul, is dominated by the angry and opinionated DI Johns her boss, of whom she says “For whatever reason, he had it in for me, and nothing was going to change that”. The other person of significance, Detective Malcolm Smith, nurses the physical and mental scars of an encounter with a couple of the leading criminals in the area, in which another officer died. As the investigation proceeds, Sam is typically given the least likable jobs, such as searching for the source of cheap masks used in the raid. While the suspects seem to be obvious, Sam’s questioning of many of those involved in the secretive John’s life begins to make her wonder if the answers are a little more complex. Meanwhile, her father is seriously ill, her family are gathering around, and her mother seems to despair of her. As her relationship with Paul continues, her friend Maggie makes an observation that could change everything.

The characters in this novel are so well drawn as to be immediately multi dimensional, as their appearance, actions and gestures are brilliantly described. Sam herself leaps from the page, fully realized as a woman with determination and drive, as well as a touching concern for even those who seem to dislike her. The pace of this novel is well constructed, with human punctuation of eating unhealthy food at odd times and realistic conversations with people of all kinds. There is sufficient action to maintain the excitement throughout this novel, and I found the writing clever without the weight of extra description. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone who appreciates a lively detective novel with an excellent lead character.  

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