Review: Bound by Vanda Symon

A man is shot through the head in his Dunedin home while his wife, bound to a chair and struggling to breathe through the gag in her mouth, watches helplessly. The couple’s son returns home to an unthinkably awful scene. Local police, including newly promoted Detective Sam Shephard, soon realise that there must be more to this home invasion than first appearances might suggest.

This is the third book in the four-book series that I’ve read, and while the others haven’t been any slouches this is the best one so far. As she did with Overkill Symon has created the kind of dramatic and memorable opening to a novel that draws you in immediately.  Fortunately the plot which follows does not disappoint; it’s a ripper. There are several unpredictable twists and a swag of threads that flow nicely, with Sam Shephard as the unifying element tying it all together. Sam is initially given the job of liaising with the surviving victims of the home invasion, a job she finds increasingly difficult as she is forced to keep going back and intruding on people’s recovery and grief. I thought this was depicted very credibly, with Sam’s boss finding it easy to demand more as he’s not the one having to intrude while Sam has an internal battle, knowing they need more information but also feeling empathy for the family. When Sam’s role expands to other duties she notices some discrepancies in the case that Police are building against their suspects and her working life becomes even more awkward than it usually is given that she doesn’t get along too well with her boss.

Sam is a terrific character, a basically good person and cop who sometimes lets her big mouth get her into trouble (perhaps I like this as it’s a trait I can definitely identify with). She’s also funny and pretty-much devoid of the demons that haunt many fictional detectives (though she is only young and perhaps has time to develop some psychoses of her own). In this outing I thought Symon got the balance of time spent focusing on the case and Sam’s personal life just right, especially as there are a couple of significant personal issues playing out behind the scenes, both of which were handled credibly. There are other good characters too, including Sam’s troubled colleague Smithy and the wives of two of the suspects in the case are both sensitively depicted and a kind of character you don’t see a lot of in crime fiction.

I read this book in two sittings and it was a real joy to read: a fast-paced, engaging and credible story and even the ending did not disappoint (a rarer thing than it should be). I can’t think of too many people who would not get a kick out of meeting Sam and getting lost in a top quality story like this one. I think it would be easy enough to pick the series up with this book (Symon provides enough back story details for you to get a flavour of Sam’s past trials and tribulations) but you could always go back and start at the beginning. The books are even available electronically to people outside Australasia!

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Bound has been reviewed at Mysteries in Paradise

I’ve reviewed two of the three earlier novels in this series: Overkill and Containment

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 4/5
Author website
Publisher Penguin [2011]
ISBN 9780143565277
Length 314 pages
Format Paperback
Book Series #4 in the Sam Shephard series
Source I borrowed it from Kerrie (thanks)

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5 Responses to Review: Bound by Vanda Symon

  1. Maxine says:

    Great review, as ever, Bernadette. I would like to read this series, sometime. However, I don’t think you can read the books electroncially outside Australasia, or not in the UK anyway. I tried that same link when Craig (?) posted about this, and the same happened as happens now – you don’t see any books there by Vanda Symon. I presume this is a DRM evil. You can get some of the books in print via UK Amazon (not available on UK Kindle), however.


  2. Bernadette – Thanks for this excellent review :-). Vanda Symon is definitely a highly talented writer, and your review mentions a few things that I always look for in a good read. That balance of work life and home life for the characters is important. So is being refreshingly free of personal demons, but still human enough to have a past and some issues to deal with. And of course, a good story with twists and turns never hurts ;-).


  3. Dorte H says:

    Sadly, it is true what Maxine says about the electronic version. I enjoyed Vanda´s debut very much so I have been looking for that rare volume two here, there, and everywhere. Right now I came up with a solution: I downloaded the German Kindle version. A good idea? – well, let´s see if my German is good enough to sail me through a whole novel.


  4. Kathy D. says:

    Good to read this review. I read “Containment” and liked Sam Shephard a lot, and have been looking forward to reading “Bound,” as soon as I can find it here in the States. The character is so feisty, independent and driven to investigate and find the culprits, even if she has to circumvent procedures and her boss. That is compelling. Look forward to reading more of Sam’s adventures.


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