A pregnant Sam Shephard investigates the murder of an expectant mother in Dunedin, as it becomes clear that the killer is ready to strike again
[ About Expectant ]
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…
[ My Review ]
Expectant by Vanda Symon published February 16th, 2023 with Orenda Books and is rightfully described as ‘shocking and twisty ‘. Vanda Symon has been given the moniker of ‘New Zealand’s modern Queen of Crime’ by the great Scottish crime writer Val McDermid and I can see why. Expectant is the first Sam Shephard mystery in twelve years and the fifth book in this crime fiction series. Featuring the formidable and feisty Detective Sam Shephard, it follows on from Overkill, The Ringmaster, Containment and Bound.
Dunedin, located on New Zealand’s South Island, is home to Vanda Symon and her family and is where Sam Shephard is based. Through the words of Vanda Symon, we are all transported to this city, one that is recognised for its Scottish and Maori heritage and even has its own Spotify playlist Dunnerstunner (which is pretty cool!)
Expectant sees Vanda Symon return with, what is quite possibly, one of the most disturbing opening scenes in a book I have ever read. Anyone reading those pages will feel a chill down their spine, but as a mother myself, I was completely rattled and disconcerted by the images depicted. I just could not and still cannot get them out of my head which is an absolute credit to the writing of Vanda Symon. From the book description, it’s clear that a heavily pregnant woman, Aleisha Newman, is murdered leaving a city and its population shocked and afraid.
“Dunedin was waking up to the news of the horrendous crime committed on its streets overnight, and I was waking up to the shocking details the media and general public still weren’t party to – details we didn’t have last night.”
With such a violent and abhorrent attack on the streets of Dunedin, the police must act fast to catch this brutal killer before they strike again. For Detective Sam Shephard this case feels all too personal. In the latter stages of pregnancy she is immediately side-lined by her boss, DI Johns, which infuriates her. There is no love lost between Sam and DI Johns and she is frustrated by being confined to a desk job. But Sam Shephard is not one to tow the line and with her ingenuity and tenacity she slowly begins to piece together the truth behind this barbaric crime.
“Rage that someone could have committed such an atrocity against someone else – someone so vulnerable. It was that anger that would sustain me through this. It was that anger that would focus my mind, channel my critical thinking. I would find justice for Aleisha Newman. This felt personal.”
But Sam Shephard’s feistiness has also put her into very threatening situations and in Expectant it’s no different. Her partner Peter and her best friend Maggie are concerned for Sam. Her involvement in this case is no longer just about her safety but also for that of her unborn child. But Sam is angry, Sam is stubborn and Sam wants justice.
The appeal of Vanda Symon’s writing is her empathy, her down-to-earth descriptions and her excellent characterisations and descriptions. Sam Shephard is a top protagonist. She is steadfast in her search for the truth but, in this book, there is also a more intimate side to her personality as she struggles with her own imminent life-changing experience. She is more exposed, more raw than ever before, which will appeal to all, adding another layer of credibility to Vanda Symon’s writing.
I am being deliberately vague in my review because, when I picked up Expectant, I had very little knowledge of what was ahead of me, except what I read at the back of the book. This meant that my shock on discovery was authentic and genuinely distressing. Expectant is hard-hitting and heart-wrenching, portraying some very harrowing scenes but Sam Shephard’s character takes the edge off and reins in the fear because we trust her and we know she will solve the case and see justice done.
Expectant is another great addition to this series, with snappy short chapters that keep the pace moving at page-turning speed and with heightened tension. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next to the indomitable Detective Sam Shephard. Keep then coming Vanda Symon!
[ Bio ]
Vanda Symon is a crime writer, health researcher 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, which includes Overkill, The Ringmaster, Containment and Bound, hit number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and has also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award. Overkill was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. All four books have been ebook bestsellers.
Vanda currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and and a very demanding cat.
Expectant is the first new Sam Shephard mystery in twelve years.
Twitter ~ @vandasymon