Expectant by Vanda Symon  (Sam Shephard #5) @VandaSymon @OrendaBooks @RandomTTours

Source: Review copy
Publication: 16 February 2023 from Orenda Books
PP: 320
ISBN-13: 978-1914585579

My thanks to Orenda Books for an advance copy for review

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…

Sheesh! What a prologue! Emotional, impactful and not a little grisly, Vanda Symon delivers a shocking opening to the latest in this so, so welcome Sam Shephard novel, the 5th in this terrific series.

Timi is a tagger and he and his pals have been spraying when they stumble across a dying woman. in a Dunedin alleyway. Though his pals run, Timi stays with her and the courage and the deep compassion he shows only enhances the brutality of this crime. Aleisha Newman was savagely murdered and her unborn child has been ripped from her womb.

Detectives must ascertain the motivation for this callous and truly terrible act as well as searching for the baby and trying to determine whether this killer is likely to strike again. We learn about the reasons babies and small children go missing in New Zealand and it is all very distressing stuff. No wonder the public is up in arms over this case.

Sam Shephard feels this loss all too keenly. Heavily pregnant herself, she’s confined to desk duty which only serves to make her irritable, but of course she feels this murder incredibly personally.

In this incredible series we have watched Sam grow and develop and as a result we have come to know and love her. The best and fiercest of friends; a loving daughter even when she is fighting with her parents; a bolshie employee who always stands her ground, sometimes with a bit too much mouth, she is a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve but strives to maintain her independence in every situation.

That’s not ever been easy in the Police, and it’s getting less so in all aspects of her life the closer towards giving birth she gets. Sam is on the cusp of great personal change and she’s finding all a bit overwhelming.

Though she’s been told to stay away from this case, there’s no way Sam can do that. She is devastated by what has happened to Aleisha and she thinks she is in the perfect position to help find the killer. Knowing Sam is deliberately putting herself in the path of a killer is real edge-of-the seat stuff and Vanda Symon ramps up the tension as Sam and her soon to be born baby take on the case.

Now, the thing about Sam is that she is more than a character. She’s family, or at least a very close friend. So you feel everything that happens to her. You boil with her when she perceives injustice, you feel her pain when when she is emotionally upset and you know real fear when she is in harm’s way. So this case, so personal to Sam, is personal to us as well, because we care about her.

Vanda Symon manages to alleviate some of the harshness and brutality of this case by showing us Sam’s warmth and humour and her close relationships with the people she loves. This is a Sam who is learning that being a mother means she’s going to have to change, even if that’s a course she’s finding tricky to navigate. But we know she’s going to make it, because we have been with her every step of the way, watching her grow and become the woman she is today..

It’s being about to be a mother that helps her with this case though and allows her to come to terms with the enormity of what’s to come and the changes she’s going to have to make.

Verdict: Vanda Symon has produced a dark and tension filled, shocking drama about one of the worst crimes imaginable. She has written an unforgettable heart-breaking story that had me chewing my fingernails with worry. But she has also allowed Sam to develop, to shine in her new persona of mother to be, albeit allowing that smart mouth and sense of humour to stay undiminished. There will be more sparks to come along Sam’s journey, that’s for sure and I’ll be with her every step of the way.

Orenda Books                                  Waterstones                      Bookshop.org

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.

Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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