Turning Left Around the World by David C Moore | Blog Tour Extract | @dcmooreauthor @CameronPMtweets) #WorldTravel

Publisher: Mirador Publishing (24 Sept. 2018)

Available in ebook and paperback

440 pages


|   About the Book   |


For some people, retirement dreams consist of comfy slippers and gardening. Not so David and Helene whose dream was of adventure.

They presented Audley Travel, specalities in creating tailor-made journeys to all corners of the globe, with the challenge of exploring the history, landscape, wildlife, people and food in fifteen countries over ten months.

Fortunately, they were up to the task so David and Helene traded their slippers and gardening gloves for 53 flights, 30 trains, 8 boats, 3 cruise ships, 1 light aircraft, 1 hot air balloon, a motorbike and sidecar, countless speedboats, taxis, tuk-tuks, cyclos, bicycles. And a disobedient horse.

Turning Left Around The World is an entertaining account of their adventure, often intriguing, frequently funny and occasionally tragic. Share their adventure, enjoy the surprises and meet some fascinating people with some unusual customs.





The Nakasendo Highway was first established in the 8th C. linking the areas around the then capital Nara as the state grew. Its full length is an impressive 531 km between mountain ranges, on paved and cobbled paths. Villages en route were selected as Post Towns to provide food and lodgings for official travellers, our hike was from one of these, Magome to the most beautiful of them all, Tsumago the finest traditional Post Town in Japan.

“Ring bell hard against bears” read the sign attached to the first bell post we came across. Without a bear to ring it against I gave the chain a long hard pull with the hope that the peels would scatter any bears on our path. The bell posts were dotted every half a mile or so along the track as it passed through the pine forest above the gushing river.

Coming out of the bear’s home we arrived at the river bank and an absolutely stunning view of cherry blossom in whites, pink and reds, some trees surprisingly displaying all three. The scene was thick with colour and an ideal place to stop for our picnic of sushi, Sapporo beer and a small bottle of sake on a low table under the cherry blossom, what could be more Japanese? Wonderful.

Our stay that night was at a traditional Japanese hotel known as a ryokan, where we were to really experience the best of Japan’s hospitality and its exacting etiquette. It’s the footwear that poses the biggest challenge. Shoes off and lots of mutual bowing on arrival, we were then provided with slippers and followed our host to our room where we were required to enter bare foot and were given the colourful toilet sandals to be worn in the toilet only – walking out with these still on would be a huge faux pas.

The room had a low table with still lower and quite demanding chairs, the floor was covered in tatami mats and the walls seemed to be made of paper. But there was something missing, no bed. Our non-English speaking host must have registered my confusion as I peered into wardrobes, the bathroom and even the balcony, well you never know.

‘Futon, David,’ said Helene, who knows about these things.

Our host mimed making a bed and not to touch the rolled up colourful duvet affair in another cupboard.

‘Fair enough, floor it is then,’ I said, ‘only one night I suppose.’

We were then handed our own yukata’s, apparently. A dressing gown kimono type of affair that tied, importantly left side over the right (no idea why), with a huge double waist band around the middle, and fell to the floor, Helene looked terrific, I looked like I’d just got up.

We were now all prepared to tackle our first onsen bath, a long-standing tradition the Japanese are very proud of and which is riddled with ritual. We needed to be careful here, onsen bathing is enjoyed naked. These hot cypress springs are both indoor and out and can be communal, fortunately our ryokan provided a segregated option so we set off in our colourful yukatas and a pair of open clogs to find a black flag for me and a red flag for Helene signifying the entry to our respective onsens.

The changing room had a multilingual notice with instructions for use.

1. Strip naked.
Now I’m as uninhibited as the next person, but it’s difficult to maintain your dignity swanning around an onsen with nothing more than an insubstantial flannel generously provided in the bamboo basket where you deposit your yukata. Where do you hold it, for a start? There seemed to be two schools of thought here, those who gaily flounced around with flannel flung brazenly over their shoulder, and those who surreptitiously held it casually but carefully in front of them.

Opting for the latter strategy I entered what at first looked like a cross between a beautician and a milking parlour. Three legged low stools were lined up in front of large wall mirrors and a selection of soaps, oils and other unidentifiable cleansing potions were presented on another low table.

2. Wash thoroughly before entering the onsen.
Each mirror had a shower attachment next to it, one of those on a coil that is intended to be pulled out of the wall. I glanced at my fellow onsen users for a clue, trying desperately for my glance not to be confused with a stare.

What an odd way to shower. Having eased my way down onto the low modesty stool I selected a couple of colourful liquids in Japanese bottles giving no indication which part of the body they specialised in and held the shower above me. I must say it was quite an enjoyable experience, once I realised no one paid any attention to where all the hot steamy water was flying around, it was fun.

3. Enter the onsen slowly, it is hot.
The indoor onsen was gurgling away with water fed from a natural spring and added to with entirely unknown oils and minerals giving it an oily and not unpleasant aroma.

But I made a quick dash across the shower area past the indoor pool to submerge myself in a vacant part of the open air onsen. By heck it was hot.

I watched the sun go down behind the blossom laden hills in the distance as the hot oily water soothed my aching limbs from hiking the Nakasendo Highway. And I got it. What a wonderful way to spend an early evening, no wonder the Japanese are so proud of the tradition.

Dinner was to be an equally traditional affair. Dressed back in our yukata and second set of slippers we were directed to our personal dining area in the partitioned restaurant and seated at a low table laid beautifully with small bowls and dishes, jugs of sake and glasses of a wonderfully sweet plumb wine.

The dishes kept coming from our waitress in her colourful kimono and the sake kept flowing as our miming of the ingredients became more extravagant and funnier. We collapsed into futons late in the evening for a wonderful night’s sleep, what a glorious day.


My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation and Cameron Publicity for providing the extract.



|   Author Bio  |

I retired from advertising and marketing when Helene through I may still be fit enough to take on an adventure around the world. It was an itinerary for those of us of a certain age who prefer to turn left when boarding, choose a one-to-one specialist guide rather than a bus full, and enjoy a room with a sea view rather than one with a shared loo. I hope you enjoy our exploits and share a laugh with us along the way. Happy travels David.



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Ravens Gathering by Graeme Cumming | Blog Tour Guest Post | @GraemeCumming63 #LoveBooksGroupTours


Available in ebook and paperback

484 pages

My thanks to Kelly of Love Books Group Tours for the blog tour invitation and to Graeme for providing the guest post.


|   About the Book   |


As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.

“You know what they are, don’t you?”

A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family in particular it’s more than a coincidence, but unease increases following a brutal attack. As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences.

And only a select few know why the ravens are gathering.


Guest Post

by Graeme Cumming


My question to Graeme was:

“Folklore has long associated Ravens with death; were you always going to include the birds or did the idea to include them come to you much later during the writing process?”

When I read a book, particularly one that follows an unusual path, I often wonder about the starting point for the writer, and why certain elements have been included. Clearly, I’m not alone in that. And the premise of the question has made me ask myself about the assumptions I make. Because the question asks whether I was always going to include them or if the idea came much later, and the reality is that the title came first. Which was unusual. Normally, I’ll get an idea and build it into a story, then try to come up with a short and snappy title that fits. Not this time.

Let me take you back to 1989. I’d been visiting relatives and was heading home when I joined the A1. Just as I came off the slip road, I noticed a group of large black birds on the hard shoulder ahead of me. They were pecking at something, presumably an animal that had been hit by a passing car. As I drew closer, some more arrived and I said to my partner: “Did you see those ravens gathering?”

There was something about the phrase that struck me immediately. I’d been writing for years, so novels and their titles were a constant presence in my mind anyway. And that combination of words just had a certain ring to it. There was a title there and I had to make use of it.

So ravens were always going to form part of the narrative but, at that point, I had no idea how – or even why!

What I did know was that the title suggested something creepy and probably supernatural. Which didn’t automatically sit well with me. I was happy reading stuff by Stephen King, James Herbert and Graham Masterton, but it wasn’t subject matter I felt inclined to write.

Fortunately, the title kick-started my brain and images began to flow through my mind. Old houses; drawers opening and closing themselves (poltergeists?); a clearing in the woods where nasty things happen. Those features have remained, although not exactly as I envisaged them. Still, taking those strands, I gradually began to pull them together to make a story that isn’t truly horror, but does have a certain creepiness to it.

Looking back on it, the folklore surrounding ravens didn’t occur to me at a conscious level. But the fact that I felt I needed to take the story in the direction I did suggests something about ravens did influence my thinking. Which begs another question: Is it possible to include ravens without there being connotations of death?



|   Author Bio   |

Graeme Cumming lives in Robin Hood country. He has wide and varied tastes when it comes to fiction so he’s conscious that his thrillers can cross into territories including horror, fantasy and science fiction as well as more traditional arenas.
When not writing, Graeme is an enthusiastic sailor (and, by default, swimmer), and enjoys off-road cycling and walking. He is currently Education Director at Sheffield Speakers Club. Oh yes, and he reads (a lot) and loves the cinema.


Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads

The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham | Book Review and Author QandA (@AlisonBelsham @TrapezeBooks)

Published by Trapeze Books

Available in ebook and paperback (20 September 2018)

383 pages

Source: Review copy provided by publisher

My thanks to Trapeze and Tracy Fenton for the review copy and the tour invitation and to Alison for taking the time to answer my questions.  I also have my review at the end of the post.


|   About the Book   |


A policeman on his first murder case
A tattoo artist with a deadly secret
And a twisted serial killer sharpening his blades to kill again…

When Brighton tattoo artist Marni Mullins discovers a flayed body, newly-promoted DI Francis Sullivan needs her help. There’s a serial killer at large, slicing tattoos from his victims’ bodies while they’re still alive. Marni knows the tattooing world like the back of her hand, but has her own reasons to distrust the police. So when she identifies the killer’s next target, will she tell Sullivan or go after the Tattoo Thief alone?


Q&A with Alison Belsham


It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the blog Alison, would you please tell us a little about your background?

Hi – it’s great to be here, so thank you for having me and for taking the time to read The Tattoo Thief. This is my debut novel, but to be honest, I’ve been a writer all my life. My day job is freelance copywriting and in this I’m very fortunate as it allows me the time to write fiction when I’m not busy with clients’ work. Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at screenwriting and I’ve written several other novels – but this is the first one I’ve managed to have published – so it’s a very exciting time for me.

Without giving away too much information, can you please tell us a little about your latest novel, The Tattoo Thief? What inspired you to create a story around tattoos?

In November, 2015, I had the first of five sessions on a sleeve tattoo. That night, I couldn’t get to sleep – I was too excited about having finally done something I’d wanted to do for years. I thought to myself, “I’ve got my tattoo at last. No one can take it away.” Then my writer’s brain chipped in with this thought: “What if someone did take it away?” That’s how the idea for The Tattoo Thief was born. It’s a police procedural serial killer thriller, set in Brighton – and as the title suggests, someone is attacking people and cutting their tattoos from them. It’s quite gruesome but also a lot of fun.

I’m obviously not asking you to reply if this too personal! but do you have any tattoos and are you able to share a picture?

Yes, I do have a tattoo, but at this point just the one. I chose to have an octopus tattoo not because octopuses have special meaning for me, but precisely because they don’t. I wanted something aesthetically pleasing rather than deep and meaningful – because the things that are meaningful to us change throughout our lives. I have an octopus sleeve on my right arm and it’s something I’ve never regretted doing for a minute.

The story is set in Brighton. Is that somewhere of which you have personal knowledge or did you have to make many research trips?

Having lived in London and the south east for most of my life (though I now live in Edinburgh), Brighton was a place that I’ve visited many times and know well. However, since deciding to set my books there, I’ve had several research trips to check out precise locations and soak up the atmosphere – and I really love going back there whenever I can.

The world of tattoo artists seems to be a very closed one with many artists knowing each other and being able to recognize each other’s work. Is this an area of interest to you or a career that you have ever considered?

I’ve been fascinated by tattoos all my life – since my grandfather, a submariner, used to show me the stunning Chinese dragon tattoos he’d had tattooed on his arms in China during the 1930s. Thankfully, these days tattooing is a huge fashion and is becoming much more accessible. Also, now nearly half of tattooists are women, which I think is a brilliant change in the industry. But much as I’m fascinated by tattooing, I could never become a tattooist because I can’t draw. It would be too cruel to inflict people with my terrible artwork!

I have to mention the cat. I daren’t Google this because some things can’t be unseen but are animals with tattoos really a thing?

Unfortunately, yes, there are some people who have tattooed their pet animals, claiming that it’s okay as the animals are sedated at the time. This is totally wrong as animals obviously can’t give consent and no animal looks better with a tattoo.

How did you plan/research your books? Do you plot in detail or just see where the story takes you?

I’m probably the queen of advanced plotting! I plan out every chapter on a huge Excel document before I write a word of the book – a process that takes a couple of months to do. It means that when I start writing I know exactly where I’m going with any given scene. Of course, that doesn’t mean things don’t change along the way – and then I have work out how that impinges on the planned scenes moving forward. Well, no one said writing a book would be easy…

What is the best writing advice that you have received? And what advice would you give to anyone trying to get their novel published? Is there anything that you wished you had done differently?

That’s a tough question to answer. I think writers are bombarded with thousands of bits of advice, day after day. Some I take on board and have made a real difference to my writing, while others I disregard – but I don’t think there can be one single golden piece of advice. In fact, when it comes to writing advice, it’s not a case of ‘one size fits all’, as people are writing different things, in different styles, for different reasons and readerships.

I think the advice I would give to anyone who wants to get published is to persevere. If you’ve never written before, don’t expect your first novel to get published – you need to learn your craft and practice repeatedly. After all, someone doesn’t just pick up a violin and get to play in the Albert Hall. Apparently, most debut novels are actually the fourth or fifth book a writer has written, so if you really want to get published and succeed, you need to be in it for the long haul.

I don’t think there’s anything I wish I’d done differently. I’ve worked hard and I’ve also been very lucky, and this has happened at exactly the right time for me, so I feel very blessed.

Is there any part of the writing process which you enjoy (or find the most difficult) – i.e. researching, writing, editing?

I enjoy all of those three – researching, writing and editing – and each has their easy days and their tough days. And if it’s been a really hard day of writing or editing, the satisfaction you feel when you get where you want to be is all the sweeter.

Are there any authors whose books have made an impact on you? What type of book do you enjoy reading for pleasure, and what are you reading now?

Interestingly, a lot of the books that have made an impact on me haven’t been crime fiction at all. I’m a big fan of Charles Dickens and John Irving – long sprawling novels that not only tell great stories but also make points about the world we live in and what it means to be human. However, I do read a lot of crime fiction – my favourites include Stieg Larsson, Michael Connelly, Jo Nesbo, Scott Turrow and too many more to mention.

I’m currently between books but I just finished reading an advance copy of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – it’s coming out next year and it’s going to be huge, so look out for it.

When you’re not working or writing, what do you do to relax?

I wish there was a time when I wasn’t working or writing! But if there was, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with myself!

Finally, are there are plans for a series featuring Francis Sullivan and Rory Mackay?

Yes, absolutely! The Tattoo Thief is a trilogy that features not only Francis and Rory but also my tattoo artist character, Marni Mullins. I’m working hard on the second one right now – Poison Ink.


and folks…………….here is Alison’s tattoo



|   My Thoughts   |


Well. If you like your crime dark and graphic then this is the book for you.

As to what the book is about, “It does what it says on the tin”. There is a killer selecting people with tattoos and removing them – whilst the person is still alive. Gory enough for you? We’re not talking tiny butterflies here by the way – all those chosen have some amazing body art which someone is obviously desperate to own.

DI Francis Sullivan has been newly promoted at just 29 years of age. His promotion has not gone down well with his colleague DS Rory Mackay who was also hoping to get the post. Tensions between the two simmer with Sullivan’s inexperience being an irritant to Mackay. It doesn’t help that their DCI is a rude ignorant brute of a man who has no time for reasoning or excuses and just wants results. Now.

Set in Brighton, the story is told from 4 perspectives – Francis, Rory, a tattooist called Marni Mullins and an unknown voice, who I took to be the killer.

Marni is a complex character, clearly damaged by past events of which the reader is gradually made aware. Divorced from fellow tattoo artist Thiery Mullins, she is a respected tattoo artist in her own right. She still holds a torch for her ex-husband and even though she resents his interference in her life, she can’t quite let go.  It is Marni who discovers the first victim and when Francis approaches her for assistance with his enquiries into the tattooist community, she is conflicted. She wants to help catch the killer but doesn’t want to help the police. There were the inevitable eye rolls from me whenever she went off-piste and ignored advice. How many times do bad things happen when they do that? Some people never learn!

The Tattoo Thief is rather more graphic than the crime thrillers I would normally choose but I really enjoyed this.  I can be a bit of a wuss where mutilation of bodies are concerned and there were times when I winced and had to look away at a particularly gruesome description but the story raced along at a pace and kept my interest all the way through. The voice of the killer, is particularly chilling, as are the references to ‘The Collector’.

I particularly liked the interaction between Marni and Francis – partly because they were so very different in personality. Francis was very religious, a regular church goer with family issues of his own. His inexperience in dealing with suspects and witnesses meant for some clumsy interviewing which did get people’s backs up – including Marni’s. However for all her antipathy towards the police there was a connection between the two which I suspect might be explored further.

I did feel quite sorry for Francis. His lack of experience made him a marked man in some quarters and some people had no hesitation in throwing him under a bus if it suited them. However he had a stubborn nature and wouldn’t go away quietly. He wants to prove himself by solving the case any way he can. In that respect he and Marni were well matched.

The Tattoo Thief was an intriguing and tension filled read from beginning to end. I’m interested to see how the characters of Sullivan and Mullins develop and will definitely be reading more of this series.


|   Author Bio   |

Alison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner.


Website    |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads

The After Wife by Cass Hunter | Book Review | (@C_HunterAuthor @TrapezeBooks) #TheAfterWife


Published by Trapeze/Orion

Available in ebook and paperback (6 September 2018)

368 pages

Source: Review copy from publisher


I’m thrilled to be sharing my thoughts on The After Wife. My thanks to Trapeze for the review copy and to Tracy Fenton for the blog tour invitation.

|   About the Book   |


A surprising and emotional story starring an unforgettable heroine, for fans of Together, The Summer of Impossible Things and The Time Traveler’s Wife

When Rachel and Aidan fell in love, they thought it was forever.

She was a brilliant, high-flying scientist. He was her loving and supportive husband.

Now she’s gone, and Aidan must carry on and raise their daughter alone.

But Rachel has left behind her life’s work, a gift of love to see them through the dark days after her death.

A gift called iRachel.

If you liked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or The Summer of Impossible Things, you’ll love The After Wife


|   My Thoughts   |


PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  Do not read this book in public. At various times you will be a blubbering mess.


What can I say about The After Wife.  I ADORED it.

I have to admit when I first realised it was about a robot, I thought “is this going to be for me”, not being scientifically minded at all.  I am SO glad I picked up this up and if I hadn’t read it, I would have missed out on an absolute gem.

The principal characters are Rachel, her husband Adrian and teenage daughter Chloe.  And of course iRachel.  Rachel is a brilliant scientist and together with a colleague Luke, they have been building a humanoid robot.  Not just one that can carry out tasks but one that can also express empathy and can be a worthwhile companion. Rachel has been writing the code and inputting huge amounts of data whilst Luke is responsible for the appearance and movement.  He has decided to make it in Rachel’s image.

When tragedy strikes, iRachel ends up living with Adrian and Chloe.  They are both blindsided by grief and resistant to the idea however this was Rachel’s last wish.  There was a part of me that initially thought how cruel can you be to inflict a robotic replica of yourself onto your grieving family and I couldn’t get my head around why anyone would want to do that but as time went on, I realised that they all needed each other and that far from hindering the grieving process, it helped in moving their lives forward.

This is a story of love, loss, grief and hope.  It’s sad. You will need tissues.  There were times when I cried but its also very funny with some witty observations and one-liners and I veered between snotty tears one minute and snorting with laughter the next.  On the face of it, it sounds a far fetched concept but when you look at the robots that are currently being developed, perhaps this isn’t such a bizarre idea for the future

Mainly narrated (in the third person) by Adrian, Chloe, and iRachel, you can’t help but feel a proper engagement and empathy with that person.  I fell in love with all the characters for different reasons, I even liked Luke (despite his rude, taciturn manner and lack of people skills).  Even though she was super busy and always at work, Rachel had run the house like clockwork and Adrian, despite being a great dad, had a hard act to follow.  Chloe was a typical teenager, a bit stroppy at times and wanting to push boundaries but underneath she had a good heart and was heartbroken by the loss of her mum and the thought that she had been a disappointment to her. And as for That Letter! I was reading that part on the train and I couldn’t read through my tears. I had to put the book away. Aidan’s mother, Sinead had been a strong independent woman but was now facing her own failing health problems.  iRachel was just a wonderful character and made me want a humanoid of my own.  Not only did she do household tasks – she cooked and cleaned! she had an infinite database of information but also she was learning about human emotions and how to interact.  There was one part, near the end, when she made a long speech and it broke me. All these characters pushed their way into my heart and it made for a wonderfully emotive read.

Cass Hunter has written this quite beautifully with superb characterisation and emotional depth. I was charmed from the first page and I really didn’t want the story to end.

All the love and all the stars for this one.  I can’t recommend it enough.


Just a couple of the quotes that made me laugh:

(From Bea, the manager of the laboratory.  “For a collection of very clever people, they’re often very dim. Most of them couldn’t find their own arses with two hands, a map and an Excel spreadsheet”.

From iRachel.“She responded with a phrase which was partially inaudible but when checked against my vocabulary database resembled ‘pith off’. Logic suggests this is not a reference to peeling citrus fruit but is instead a conventionally impolite request to remove myself from the vicinity”




|   Author Bio   |

Cass Hunter was born in South Africa and moved to the UK in 2000. She lives in North London with her husband and two sons. She is an avid lifelong learner, and works at a London university. Cass Hunter is the pen name of Rosie Fiore, whose novels include After Isabella, What She Left, Babies in Waiting and Wonder Women.


Website   |   Twitter   |   Amazon UK   | Goodreads 



Overkill by Vanda Symon (Sam Shephard Book 1) | Book Review ( @vandasymon @OrendaBooks ) #Overkill #NewZealandNoir

Published by Orenda Books

Available in Ebook and Paperback (6 September 2018)

272 pages

Source: Review copy provided by publisher

Welcome to the blog tour for Overkill which I am sharing today with the lovely Lainy from So Many Books So Little Time.  Do pop over to her blog to see her review. My thanks to Orenda for the paperback copy to review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invitation.


|   About the Book   |


When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems.

Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.

To find the murderer … and clear her name.

A taut, atmospheric and page-turning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers.


|   My Thoughts   |


I’ve read crime thrillers set in many different countries, but until now, none that have been set in New Zealand. Visiting the country has been on my bucket list forever but until I can achieve that, reading a book set there is the next best thing!

The prologue to Overkill had me in bits, it was just so chilling and calculated in its execution – literally! I just can’t imagine what would go through your mind in those circumstances. That has to be one of the strongest beginnings to a crime story that I’ve read and I’m delighted to say that the rest of the story had me just as hooked.

The town of Mataura is one of those places where everybody knows everyone else and their business. Until the death of Gaby Knowes the worst crime that police constable Sam Shephard had to deal with was cattle rustling. However the death of Gaby was devastating for the small-knit community and for Sam personally.

Sam’s past association with Gaby’s husband Lockie very much goes against her and although she tries to be impartial in her professional capacity, she can’t help having preconceived ideas about Gaby’s life and what led to her death. It was her reactions and feelings that made her so believable and more human than just a character on a page. Lockie may have been in her past but even though she is investigating his wife’s death, she still can’t just switch off her feelings for him. Unfortunately for her, her superiors believe her to be a suspect and she is treated like a pariah by most colleagues and many of the townspeople.

The one shining light in Sam’s life was her friend and housemate Maggie.  Maggie was an absolute star and gave Sam support and sympathy when she needed it and a kick up the bum at other times. We could all do with a friend like that!

Sam is a tenacious and stubborn character and despite being officially off the case, she wouldn’t give up and decided to carry out her own investigations, feeling that as she knew the people and area, she would have an advantage over the neighbouring police team that had been brought in. There were times when I thought she was being especially reckless and foolish in pursuing a particular course of action and I was almost shouting “noooo don’t do that you silly woman”.

The characterisation was excellent – even for those playing a minor role and the sense of place was atmospheric and easily imagined. I could easily see in my mind the track roads leading to remote farms (– far too remote for my liking). After reading, I Googled ‘Mataura’ and there are some fabulous images of the river and surrounding landscape.

As you would expect from a crime thriller, there are surprises in store and one or two wrong garden paths. I had a few suspects in mind at various times but there were certain areas where I was way off beam. I think it’s fair to say that Overkill is not your run of the mill crime thriller!

Overkill was a fabulously gripping read and as the first in the series, it’s got off to a fine start. This will be a series I will be keen to follow.



|   Author Bio   |


Vanda Symon (born 1969) 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 hit number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.


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