Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Review of Overkill by Vanda Symon (2007, Orenda Books)

A young mother is forced into an assisted suicide in the small New Zealand town of Matuara. Sam Shephard, the sole-charge police constable in the town, is called to the home. She has mixed feelings about the woman’s disappearance given that she used to be in a relationship with her husband before he ended it. When the woman's body is found in the river the signs are that it was suicide, although Sam has her doubts. A short while later her suspicions have been confirmed and a murder team are bought in to investigate. Sam’s excitement at being part of the team is short-lived when her status moves from police officer to suspect and she’s suspended from duty. Unhappy with her bosses and unwilling to stand-down she continues to investigate, placing her relationship with her senior officers under strain and putting herself in danger.

Overkill is the first in the Sam Shephard police procedural series set in New Zealand. Originally published in 2007 in NZ, it was difficult to get hold of but now has an outlet globally through Orenda Books. The story is set in the small rural town of Matuara, where Sam is a young sole-charge police constable. When a young mother is found dead, it at first appears to be suicide, but then evidence emerges that it could have been murder. It’s Sam’s first murder case, but there’s an added complication: the mother just happens to be the wife of a man Sam dated for a couple of years. That’s not going to stop Sam getting the woman justice, however. Small in stature, Sam is feisty in personality, and when she is deemed a suspect by a visiting murder team and is suspended she vows to solve the case regardless. Despite warnings from her bosses she keeps poking around and to annoy them further she makes better headway than them, though it is also making her a target. The tale is a pretty standard rural police procedural with a head-strong lead character who doesn’t mind bending rules to get results but has her vulnerabilities. Symon does a nice job spins the story out, providing a couple of viable lines of enquiry and suspects, and Sam is an interesting enough character with whom to spend some time. The conspiracy at the heart of the story was viable, but the wall of silence around it felt a little unrealistic. Overall, an enjoyable procedural tale.

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