23 March 2020

#Blogtour #Review - Containment by Vanda Symon

Cover design by kid-ethic
Containment (Sam Shephard, 3)
Vanda Simon
Orenda Books, 5 March 2020
PB, 262pp, e

I'm grateful to Orenda and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for letting me have an advance copy of Containment and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Welcome to another instalment in the tumultuous private and work life of Samantha (Sam) Shephard, probationary Detective Constable in the Dunedin, New Zealand, police Murder Squad.

The story opens literally with a bang as Sam hurries to intercept looters seeking to profit from after a container ship has run aground. Unfortunately one of them isn't ready to defer before the authority of the Law and she runs into trouble, nursing a headache and other injuries throughout this story.

But that's only the start. A corpse in an advanced state of decay turns up and Sam's grisly, sexist boss DI Johns thinks she's just the right person to witness a most unpleasant recovery and autopsy. And just when she's done the unpleasant part off the job and is getting somewhere with the enquiry, he whisks her away and assigns her drudge work. Sam's also nursing mixed up feelings about boyfriend Paul and has family problems besides so, already stressed, she's not going to take this lying down...

Readers of Symon's previous Sam Shephard stories will be aware that she has a rather... unorthodox... approach to the chain of command, frequently landing herself in trouble, so you can expect fireworks here - though, having said that, she also seems to be learning a little discretion and she's a bit more conscious and calculating here about the liberties she takes with the law. I think that's a good thing in this particular story, it means there is less time taken upon by carpetings from DI Johns and more devoted to unpicking the mystery, which is a pretty knotty one. The murder victim here was known to many, but as the centre of a group of Bohemian students who spend much of their time drugged out, it becomes hard to establish who saw him last and when - the days do merge into one another.

For much of the book it's a frustrating trail that Sam has to follow - even when she's allowed to - and Symon must have had a lot of fun designing the sequence of classes, loose ends and red herrings that has DC Shephard running in circles. It certainly allows Sam to show herself at her dogged and creative professional best - even while she's misreading Paul, falling for a handsome chap who wants her to recover his possessions lost when that container ship grounded, and having famine rows with her brother.

I enjoyed seeing Symon develop and explore Sam's character through all this, even if, like her housemate Maggie, I wanted to take her aside for a serious conversation (several times, in fact). Shephard is a compelling, well-rounded protagonist in these stories, a million miles removed from the stereotypical middle-aged male detective with a booze problem (sorry, Morse) yet still interesting and quirky.

With this third book, Symon has extended the character and varied the format, giving a tense and quick moving mystery that entertains throughout and offers a few hints of trials to come for DC Shephard. Looking forward to Book 4 already...!

For more information about Containment, see the Orenda Books website here.

If reading my review makes you want to read the book - I hope it has - and you are unable in these times to make it to your local highstreet bookshop, I've included some buy links below (totally unaffiliated and unsponsored). That said while ours has closed "for the duration" it is fulfilling and dropping off orders, so do check. (As Karen from Orenda sets out in a blog here, Orenda is supporting bookshops with deliveries at a time when some of the big sellers - including A Big Internet Site - are drawing back).

Containment is available online from Hive books which supports local shops, or from Waterstones, Blackwell's, Foyles or WH Smith.

The tour continues - see the poster for the next stops!


  1. Really looking forward to reading this. But first I have to read books one and two....

    1. Containment is actually fairly, er, self-contained (no spoilers for Books 1 and 2) so it would do no harm to read it right now if you want. But the others are great as well!