This latest book in the Sam Shephard series is, like the others, a funny, brilliantly descriptive, well paced book with more than its fair share of drama. This book can be read as a standalone, as Sam is a character who tells her own story so well that it is soon easy to pick up the trail of events and her reactions. A young woman with a realistic but slightly grim way of looking at life, she runs a commentary about her colleagues, her friends and her family. Those involved with the stomach turning discovery of the body, though not graphically described, are an interesting bunch of characters, gradually introduced as Sam recovers from a dramatic attack. The variety of people in the area is fascinating, as a seaside resort and small town life collide. As a ship runs aground many people rush to loot the contents of containers which are washed ashore. Tracking down the people responsible and stuff stolen becomes quite a full time job, while Sam struggles with her family and boyfriend. Every character is given a full description in an economical way, and every relationship explained. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this novel.
Sam is actually on a day off when she discovers a horrifying sight; a huge tanker is stranded on the beach and the contents of several containers are strewn across the land, with people in a frenzy. As she approaches some individuals to remonstrate with them, she receives a blow which flattens her. She is rescued by a concerned bystander, but she soon becomes involved further with her attacker. A unfair allocation of work leads to her being present at the retrieval of a body which kicks off a murder case. Sam encounters some of those who knew the victim, and it transpires that they are quite the variety of people, some with rather dubious lifestyles. Fortunately, she is never easily shocked and takes a robust view of those who would otherwise find them difficult. Not that she finds life easy, with family concerns and romantic pressure.She discovers a lot about diving and the distribution of allsorts of things, and makes some new aquaintances. Her relationship with her work colleagues is honest and frank, and shows real insight. The descriptions of the places that she visits are memorable, especially the student house which is very nearly indescribable!
This is a mature and well written black comedy thriller with a strong female character in the lead, able to handle most situations. It presents a fascinating picture of life in New Zealand, in all its recognisable small community life as well as its normally picturesque coastal setting. As with the other book in the series that I have read, Sam Shephard is a fantastic creation whose impulsive and courageous behaviour makes for exciting reading. Her sense of natural justice is strong and helps keeps the book moving along so well. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a lighter crime novel in a different setting, but with effortlessly familiar emotions.
This seems a good time to mark International Women’s Day, with a book written by a woman featuring a female police officer. This is certainly not a “woman in peril” novel – if anything Sam is the only one who keeps her head while all around are losing theirs – to misquote a famous piece of poetry quite deliberately!