Monday 27 February 2023

Expectant by Vanda Symon BLOG TOUR #Expectant @vandasymon @OrendaBooks #SamShephard #BookReview


A killer targeting pregnant women.

A detective expecting her first baby…

 The shocking murder of a heavily pregnant woman throws the New Zealand city of Dunedin into a tailspin, and the devastating crime feels uncomfortably close to home for Detective Sam Shephard as she counts down the days to her own maternity leave.

 Confined to a desk job in the department, Sam must find the missing link between this brutal crime and a string of cases involving mothers and children in the past. As the pieces start to come together and the realisation dawns that the killer’s actions are escalating, drastic measures must be taken to prevent more tragedy.

 For Sam, the case becomes personal, when it becomes increasingly clear that no one is safe and the clock is ticking…

Expectant by Vanda Symon was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 16 February 2023 and is the fifth in the Sam Shephard series. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour. 

I have been reading the Sam Shephard series since the beginning and this is one of my all time favourite detective series. Vanda Symon is a terrific author, she's created a character and a community that readers will come to adore. I've been looking forward to Expectant for a long time, and can honestly say that this is the very best book in the series so far. 

Sam is a feisty detective who has struggled to fit in with her colleagues at times. However, she's now feeling pretty secure (apart from regular run ins with her boss who remains an arrogant, misogynistic prat). She's in a solid relationship with a colleague, she's well-liked by her team and she's about to have her first child. She's almost ready to take her maternity leave, and whilst she's not yet got around to creating the nursery, and she's feeling a little anxious about the actual birth, she's ready. 

However, as is usually the case where Sam is concerned, things are not going to go quite to plan. When the body of a woman is discovered in an alleyway in the town, the community is shocked. When it is discovered that the victim had been pregnant, and the baby has been removed from her body, there is horror and outrage. Sam feels especially connected to this case, and whilst her growing belly and raging hormones impact on her abilities, there is nothing that is going to stop her from solving this one, even if she has to spend most of her time in front of screen, trawling for clues. 

Vanda Symon's writing style is amazing. She structures the novel in short, snappy chapters that encourages the reader to keep reading on, wanting more and more and more. Her characters are perfectly formed and the inter-office relationships are as wonderful as Sam's personal contacts. Her mother is an interesting, often annoying character, but it is clear that their bond is so very strong, even if Sam's mum is sometimes a little overbearing and critical. 

The case is complex and puzzling, it's also emotionally challenging, both for Sam and her team and for the reader. I had no idea where this was going, and it wasn't until almost the final chapter that I make the same realisation that Sam did, and what a shocker that turns out to be.

With a nail-biting and dangerous finale, we begin to think that Sam may not make it to the end of the book. The tension is palpable and although the crime is heinous, the empathy shown in this story is stunning and adds such a depth to what could have been a run-of-the-mill murder enquiry. Vanda Symon always examines the people and the motive, never judging and always showing every side to a story. 

Wonderful. Bravo to Vanda Symon. Highly recommended. 

Vanda Symon lives in Dunedin, New Zealand. 

As well as being a crime writer, she has a PhD in science communication and is a researcher at the Centre for Pacific Health at the University of Otago. 
Overkill was shortlisted for the 2019 CWA John Creasey Debut Dagger Award and she is a four-time finalist for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel for her critically acclaimed Sam Shephard series. 
The fourth in the series, Bound, was shortlisted for a Barry Award. 
Vanda produces and hosts Write On, a monthly radio show focusing on the world of books at Otago Access Radio. 

When she isn’t working or writing, Vanda can be found in the garden, or on the business end of a fencing foil.

Twitter @vandasymon

Instagram @vandasymon

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