For my third and final post of the day I’m pleased to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for the thrilling The Ringmaster (Sam Shephard 2) by Vanda Symon. Thank you to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for inviting me to be a part of this fabulous tour!
I’m thrilled and excited to be able to share an extract from The Ringmaster with you today, which I hope will whet your appetite for this fantastic book!
About the book:
Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand
Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…
Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…
Rich with atmosphere, humour and a dark, shocking plot, The Ringmaster marks the return of passionate, headstrong police officer, Sam Shephard, in the next instalment of Vanda Symon’s bestselling series.
About the author:
Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter 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 has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.
Extract from The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon:
This was not how I’d envisaged spending my Saturday morning. Dunedin had abandoned yesterday’s sunshine in favour of a mantle of mist and drizzle that hung around like some sullen teenager. A fair amount had attached itself to me. The gloomy atmosphere made the vision before me all the more miserable.
She was discovered by a resident from the units on the far side of the Leith, who’d come over to the river’s edge to call her cat in for break- fast. Instead of kitty, the old dear had been shocked to see a body in the water near the other bank. She’d been so shaken, she’d needed medical treatment; the ambulance was still in attendance.
So here I was, on a riverbank, plagued by a sense of déjà vu – the body of a young woman face down in the water before me, like a piece of flotsam. This time there was no doubt as to foul play. Her hands, floating in front of her, were bound by a clear plastic tie. The silver tape covering her mouth extended around the back of her head like some warped, glitzy headband from which her long dark hair fanned out across the water.
I had to push aside my instinct to wade in and drag her out. After my initial, futile check for signs of life, my role was to stand guard and wait for the forensic experts and scene-of-crime officers, or SOCOs as we called them. It was not the role of a small-bit trainee detective to examine anything; any interference on my part would certainly not be appreciated – my boss had made that patently clear. In fact, I wouldn’t normally be allowed to be the first so near a crime scene, but someone had to keep watch and today that someone was me.
I filled the time by making a visual sweep of the scene from my appointed position, but I dared not move for fear of disturbing any potential evidence. I barely dared breathe.
I stood in a small, grassed clearing with the river before me and at my back a steep hillside clad with native bush – flaxes, kowhai and ngaio. The clearing was at the end of a narrow path that ran down from the main walkway, which itself ran around the base of the hill, follow- ing the Water of Leith from the Botanic Garden to Gore Place, before leading out on to Dundas Street. I shuddered. The Botanic Garden was one of my havens in Dunedin. Twenty-eight undulating hectares of picturesque solitude only minutes from home. Two days ago, I’d jogged along the walkway; it was a regular on my running circuits, and in all the months I’d been here, I hadn’t realised this path existed. I’d noticed the big, spidery tree at its entrance, where Smithy now stood guard with a bit more shelter than I had, but I’d never registered the path itself. The main walkway was high above and behind me, well obscured by the dense bush and trees. The clearing and the water would be invisible from up there, although voices would probably carry.
In front of me the Leith gently wended its way over rocks and past the banks. It was fairly shallow at this point and was open, unlike in other parts of the garden, where it was confined by the steep concrete walls of the flood-control channels. It would have been a pretty spot if it weren’t for the body. A large boulder jutted out into the water, preventing her from drifting away with the current, helped by what I imagined was a stack of wet books in her backpack: a badge of stud- enthood that now only served to weigh her down. With the modern student, though, the backpack was just as likely to hold a laptop.
Another nearby boulder had traces of blood and tissue on it, which pretty much confirmed this as the site of the murder, as did the skid or drag marks in the grass. The blood traces were another reason why I felt so wet and miserable. The drizzle had threatened to wash the remaining blood away, so in desperation I’d covered it with my jacket rather than risk losing valuable evidence. I figured potential contamination from one easily identifiable person was preferable to nature erasing any clues. I still hoped they wouldn’t rap me over the knuckles for it, though.
It was a risky site to stage a murder. Whereas this side of the river was well obscured, several flats and houses backed on to the other bank – including Mrs Franklin’s, the old lady who I could now see being stretchered off to the ambulance. So the killer or killers must have felt certain they wouldn’t have an audience when they murdered this young woman. And the only real chance of that happening would have been under cover of darkness. But how would you get someone down here in the dark without physically dragging them? There was no visible evidence of that. The only place the grass was disturbed was near the bloodied rock. I shuddered again.
They must have coerced her somehow. Either that, or they knew her, and she came down here with them willingly, perhaps for a smoke, a chat or a snog. The murder had to be premeditated, though, that much I was sure of. Most people didn’t walk around with long plastic cable ties and duct tape in their pockets. Well, the people I knew didn’t.
However the killer managed to get her down here, the end result was dumped before me. God, what a waste. Even in this condition, I could tell she was pretty. Sometime soon her parents and loved ones would receive the call that would wrench their world apart. I bit my lip to try and force back the tears that sprang into my eyes. Sometimes, I really did wonder if I was cut out for this job.
Man, I wanted to be out of here. I wasn’t exactly comfortable around dead people – especially young, violently killed, female dead people: they were too similar to what happened in Mataura. But that wasn’t the only reason I wanted to leave: all of this cold, damp air and running water had left me desperate for the loo. I jiggled from foot to foot in an attempt to find a position that was almost comfortable.
I badly needed to be relieved.
End of Extract
Thank you to Vanda Symon and Orenda Books for allowing me to share this extract with you today.
Thanks for reading!
The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon is available to buy now: Amazon UK
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