Book Review: Overkill

OVERKILL | Vanda Symon
(Sam Shephard #1)
09.07.2018 | Orenda Books
Rating: 4/5 stars


Lockie and Gaby Knowes are a happily married couple living a peaceful life with their daughter in a small New Zealand town called Mataura. One day Lockie comes home to find Gaby missing. She has left their daughter alone with a note that indicates she has committed suicide. Sam Shephard, sole police presence in Mataura, immediately sets about the search for Gaby. When her body is discovered in the river behind their house all signs confirm Gaby’s death as a suicide, however, her husband and mother are unwilling to believe this news.

Sam remains dedicated to fully investigating Gaby’s death while attempting to hide a personal connection to the family. In small towns secrets never stay buried. It’s not long before Sam finds herself facing suspension from the case. As more information is revealed, the case into Gaby’s death shifts from suicide to homicide and the fate of Sam shifts from suspension to murder suspect. Can she prove she had nothing to do with Gaby’s death? Can she find the real killer?

Let me spell it out for you. You are going to die. I want you to write a simple, fitting suicide note. That’s it. It’s not hard. Now write.

OVERKILL is the launch of Vanda Symon’s Sam Shephard series. Things kick off instantly with the investigation into Gaby’s death and Sam working the case. I appreciate that Symon doesn’t waste reader’s time with creating an epic backstory and then shifting to the crime. I enjoyed how she revealed more and more about Sam’s past and how she became to be a police officer while we watched her solving the case at hand. I think it was incredibly clever to work that through a case that had a personal connection for Sam because it immediately opened the door for backstory without anything feeling forced.

Speaking of the case…I was not expecting that! For starters, tagging along with Sam while she worked the case and skirted around the whole murder suspect ordeal was fantastic! Sam is a take no nonsense woman determined to get answers and that attitude helped set the tone for the story. The closer we got to answers I was blown away by Symon’s creativity. I’ve read a TON of crime fiction novels and there are a lot of easy answers that can be found across the genre. This isn’t one of them! I don’t want to spoil anything for you because it was so fun to fit together the pieces, but just know that you’re in good hands!

Time is of the essence in any murder investigation as evidence has a nasty habit of being cleaned away and even the hottest of trails chills with time.

I’ve already mentioned Sam’s personality and its influence on the story, but she also has a great supporting cast surrounding her. Her roommate, Maggie, was one of my favorites! Symon writes the two characters so well that you can feel yourself with them. Their relationship also added a level of humor to the book to relieve some of the drama surrounding the story. The small town of Mataura is full of people you want to meet and some you should probably think twice about. Sam knows the ins and outs of the town and it’s residents, but there are plenty of surprises in-store for her.

OVERKILL is an original, captivating, and intoxicating venture into crime fiction! This book is the perfect binge read, as you’re instantly invested in the case, the characters, and finding the truth. This is one of those stories where you want all of the answers and simultaneously never want it to end! Rest assured, the second novel, THE RINGMASTER, is hitting UK shelves* in a paperback in a few short days. I’ll be picking it up soon and sharing my thoughts soon!

*US readers, you can find this series available to you through Book Depository!

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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