For some reason, and please don’t ask me why, Queen’s ‘Another one bites the dust’ was going through my head as I read Overkill. On repeat. This was slightly off-putting, but strangely quite fitting given that the opening – probably one of the best, attention-grabbing first scenes of any book I’ve read recently – involves an imminent death (and that’s not a spoiler as, come on, it is crime fiction). Originally published in Symon’s native New Zealand, Overkill is one of the latest additions to Orenda Books’ impressive list and is protagonist Sam Shephard’s first outing.

Sam is the sole-charge police constable in real-life Mataura, a rural town vividly brought to life by Symon. When a local woman disappears, Sam is called in to investigate what quickly turns into the woman’s death when she is found on the banks of the local river. But this is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone and it quickly becomes clear that Sam’s not only too closely related to key players in the case, but may also be a suspect herself. And so she is. Suspended from duty and suddenly finding herself somewhat of a pariah, Sam must fight to clear her name and uncover the real murderer.

Part of the success of this book lies in the authenticity of Sam Shephard as a character. Sam is opinionated, loyal, feisty, smart and funny; she steps forward when others step back, putting herself in the firing line and she’s someone who you’d totally want on your side, fighting your corner. It’s Sam who sustains our interest, allowing us crucial insight into Mataura’s small town community and her own position within it. She’s a worthy protagonist: flawed and, therefore, real.

Fast-paced and well written, Overkill is a very good read indeed and a fine introduction to a character who I certainly can’t wait to meet again. But please, someone change that music …



Overkill | Orenda Books | 6 September 2018 | paperback | £8.99

Meet Vanda Symon: The Literary Lounge Q&A

 ‘Ngaio Marsh: The not-so-invisible woman’ – to come

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Music:Another one bites the dust‘, Queen (it will enter your head like a brain worm and never leave)

Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour, along with the author Q&A. Many thanks to the author for sparing us the time, lovely Anne Cater for organising the tour and the publisher for supplying a book proof. All thoughts and opinions are our own. Image ‘A little bit of tea and a slice of murder’ © The Literary Shed 2018.


See also: ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets‘; ‘Chris Whitaker’s mad, mad world – Tall Oaks’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir’; ‘Johana Gustawsson’s Keeper – indie publisher Orenda does it again‘; ‘We should all be feminists’; ‘Jane Harper’s stylish debut – The Dry’; ‘Mallory an old-style hero – It Happens in the Dark by Carol O’Connell’.

Selected The Literary Lounge Q&As/interviews:  ‘Gunnar Staalesen: The Literary Lounge Q&A’; Some like it hot – the joy of Carole Mortimer, award-winning novelist‘; ‘Meet Mary Jo Putney: The Literary Lounge Q&A‘; ‘Meet Gina Kirkham: The Literary Lounge Q&A;John Fairfax: The Literary Lounge Q&A’; ‘Ian Ridley: The Literary Shed Q&A’; ‘Meet Patrick Kincaid: The Literary Shed Q&A‘; ‘David Stuart Davies: The Literary Lounge Q&A’.

Film: Night Mail (1936), changing the face of British film; A Colour Box by Len Lye (1935); Hitchcock (2012); The Splendour of George Stevens’ Giant (1956). Hitchcock (2012); The Splendour of George Stevens’ Giant (1956).


This review is © 2018 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.


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