ARC Review / Blog Tour: “Bound” by Vanda Symon

The image of the clock’s hands burned into her retinas as she stared, willing her eyes to stay focused, there, on that spot. Above the sound of the blood pulsing through her ears, she could just make out the sharp click of its ticks, as the second hand flicked around the circumference of the dial.

Bound, Prologue opening

Author: Vanda Symon
Publication Date: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Format: eBook
Find it on: Goodreads

Many thanks to the author, Vanda Symon, publisher, Orenda Books, and Anne Cater for providing a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

The passionate, young police officer Sam Shephard returns in a taut, atmospheric and compelling police procedural, which sees her take matters into her own hands when the official investigation into the murder of a local businessman fails to add up…

The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it ’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.

Provided by Orenda Books

Review

This fourth book in Vanda Symon’s Sam Shephard police procedural series starts strong, opening with a terrifying home invasion. A woman sits bound, gagged, and wracked by emotion. She is cruelly positioned, forced to stare at her murdered husband as she waits to be rescued herself. Thankfully she’s discovered (barely in time) by their teenage son who’s returning late from band practice. As the woman is transported to a hospital to recover, main character Sam and the Dunedin police are called in to investigate. What they find appears to be a relatively straightforward open and shut case, but Sam’s instincts whisper otherwise. Although her colleagues are skeptical and even hostile to the idea, Sam is determined to see the full investigation run its course.

This is the first book I’ve read by Vanda Symon. I was very intrigued by the story and hook of a home invasion, which is shocking and plays on very powerful human fears. Admittedly, I was nervous about jumping in to the middle of a series. Rest assured this book read perfectly fine as a standalone, though for those already following the series I’m sure the experience is far richer. Chapters are short and speedy, and the writing itself is direct, which lends a feeling of authenticity to the police detective narrative voice. I particularly enjoyed Sam’s character and ‘slice of life’ collection of life experiences captured here, as well as the New Zealand setting and small set of morally ambiguous characters.

Sam, our main character, has a lot going on in this book. Her boss, DI Johns, singles her out for rude treatment/harassment, her dad is deep in the weeds of his terminal cancer diagnosis, her mom’s behavior borders on emotional manipulation/abuse, and her evolving relationship with Paul throws a wrench into their easy, sweet coworker-lover dynamic. Throw a shady murder investigation on top of that and it’s miraculous she’s not constantly in the midst of a breakdown. Realistically of course we see her struggle to balance everything, which is part of what made her such an appealing character. Not only is she morally upstanding and conscientious as a police officer serving the public, she’s also strong and compassionate day to day.

While Sam is strong and bent on helping others, it did strike me that she didn’t tend to lean on others as much for help herself. She is close with her lover, Paul, and flatmate, Maggs, but didn’t seem to confide in them as frequently as I would have expected. Sure it happened once or twice, but she more or less handled her stressors via runs and pushing through it at work (relatable, but not an ideal example 😛 ). This is especially true of Maggs, who cropped up a few times to facilitate Sam’s development but otherwise remained in the background for this book. Paul did seem to key into Sam’s emotional state more, on the other hand, and actively inquire how things were going. He had a bigger role to play with both the investigation and their relationship, and seemed like a stand-up guy. I did wish he did less ‘surreptitious grop[ing]’ around the workplace, however. Their relationship seemed cute but something about the word ‘grope’ has a negative connotation and is off-putting to me. Possibly just a personal nit.

Overall this was a fun read with a good balance of characters that were easy to love and even easier to hate. Vanda keeps just the right level of suspicion running active in your mind as you read, and my wheels were spinning trying to puzzle out who did what with each new piece of information. Once you get to the end you’re met with not only an interesting wrap up to the storyline you expect, but a surprise twist that catches you off guard. Some small threads of the plot remain purposefully loose at the end that make you curious for what the next book will hold. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys police procedurals or are sadistic enough to want to read about a detective getting slammed with life events and trying to hold it together 😉 . If you’re interested, feel free to also check out other reviews from the lovely people on this blog tour listed at the top of the page.

Meet the Author

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and has also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

Connect with Vanda:
Website: http://vandasymon.com/index.php
Facebook: Vanda Simon
Twitter: @vandasymon
Instagram: @vandasymon

2 thoughts on “ARC Review / Blog Tour: “Bound” by Vanda Symon

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