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The Ringmaster

(Sam Shephard #2)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  161 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Marginalized 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, ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published 2008 by Penguin NZ
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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  161 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christmas Carol ꧁꧂

Amazing that quite a little thing can mean the difference between 3.5 & 4*

But the lack of flow in this book was driving me crazy! & was caused by having too many chapters. Seventy (counting prologue & epilogue) in a book of only 308 pages. Every time an idea got going - stop. Turn the page. Quite unnecessary & didn't stop me guessing the killer. (view spoiler)

Still lots to like. Symon's trademark surprise opening,
Liz Barnsley
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really great follow up, a beautifully plotted mystery with a strong sense of place featuring once again main protagonist Sam Shepherd who is fascinating and engaging.

Full review for the tour.
Craig Sisterson
Dunedin writer Vanda Symon’s follow-up to her excellent debut Overkill (Penguin, 2007) finds heroine Sam Shepherd having moved to Dunedin from Mataura; bridges burnt. Undertaking detective training, Shepherd’s on the bottom rung of the ladder, battling her grudge-holding boss for any involvement.

The Ringmaster opens with a murder in the Botanic Gardens, before switching to stroppy Sam’s first-person narration. Marginalised, she struggles to participate in the investigation, working in her own
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There is a lot to like about Sam Shephard. A LOT to like. She’s takes no prisoners (well she’s a policewoman so she does, but you know what I mean), she’s sassy and no nonsense and has some great one liners and put-downs. She’s back in The Ringmaster, after the brilliant first novel Overkill, and this proves that the first book was no fluke.

When there are a series of murders in towns where the circus seems to have visited..there is a link surely? There’s been
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After a disastrous end to a case she was investigating, Sam Shephard has packed her bags and relocated. She is now at the bottom of the detective ranks in the Dunedin police force, but ready to prove her worth. Working against her is her boss, DI Johns, who she happened to rub the wrong way in that aforementioned case. Shephard is soon placed on her first homicide investigation when the body of a local university student, Rose-Marie Bateman, is found. Most believe this to be a crime of passion, ...more
Mairead Hearne (
The Ringmaster is the second book in this New Zealand based police procedural featuring the wonderfully spirited detective-in-training Samantha ‘Sam’ Shephard. Published on 25th April by Orenda Books, The Ringmaster is set in Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island, home to the author and her family. Vanda Symon’s novels have been described by Kate Mosse as ‘perfect curl-up-on-the-sofa reading’ with The Guardian’s Barry Forshaw writing that ‘it is Symon’s copper Sam, self-deprecating and very ...more
David Harris
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm grateful to Orenda Books for a free advance reading copy of The Ringmaster.

The Ringmaster is the sequel to Overkill (link to my review) also featuring detective Sam Shephard. Both books are new to the UK but originally published in New Zealand, where they are set, and I'd congratulate Orenda for bringing these heartfelt stories, bursting with sense of place, to a UK audience.

Overkill introduced Sam ('Shep' to her mates), the face of law and order in Mataura, a one-company town focussed on
Dec 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
THE RINGMASTER is the second in the Sam Shephard series from NZ author Vanda Symon. Sam has moved to Dunedin, is in detective training when the body of a young university student is found in the Botanic Gardens. In Sam's world it goes without saying that nothing is ever going to be straightforward, and once the possibility that this murder isn't a solitary event, the connection between murders all over the Southern South Island of New Zealand and a local travelling circus becomes a distinct ...more
Jun 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I have wanted to read another Vanda Symon book since I finished her first one, ‘Overkill’. Knowing I was about to spend a month on the south island of New Zealand, I decided to start reading books set in NZ to put me in the mood. Of course I immediately thought of Vanda Symon and checked to see if she had written more books. She had, and her second book RINGMASTER is set in Dunedin, just where I was scheduled to spend five days.

After the events in ‘Overkill’, Sam Shepherd and her best friend
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*I voluntarily reviewed this book from the tour organiser

You know that feeling when your heart starts to pump faster, the hairs on the back of your neck begin to tickle, and your mind goes into overdrive trying to figure out what is happening? Well, that's the permanent state I was in as I devoured every word of THE RINGMASTER by Vanda Symon who has fast become one of my favourite writers.

Sam Shephard is happy that she has moved to the bigger city of Dunedin but her life as a Detective
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The more I read about Sam the more I want to know, I love that she is still with her friend Maggie and that previous events haven’t hindered her determination to become a detective even though she has been given a hard time by her DCI. A chance to prove herself comes up when she finds herself thrust into a homicide investigation and into the spotlight.

I love that it’s not all about the murder or the killer, it’s about Sam and how she is managing, we see another side to her with a potential love
Laura Rash
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First off, this cover is pretty damn amazing! Secondly, I love a good police procedural and Sam Shepherd is a great cop and has some killer wit. The tie in of the circus made for a way different storyline. I really enjoyed the first book in this series and I think this one was even better. What I thought I’d had all figured out was wrong and that rarely happens to me as much as I read. I can’t wait for the next book from VS.
Many thanks to Orenda for this early copy!
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-thrillers
The Ringmaster – Atmospheric and compelling

This is the second book in the Sam Shephard series from Vanda Symon, but this is my introduction to this feisty detective. Some how Vanda Symon has actually made Dunedin, in New Zealand sound interesting and not just about the Egg chasing.

Like most Brits, my experience of New Zealand is that it rather stuck in the twentieth century, and the 1960s are just about creep up on them. Oh, that and getting completely battered at Rugby by the All Blacks.

LJ (On The Shelf Reviews)
After reading the first in this series, Overkill, I jumped at the chance to read this one. Even though it is the second in the series it can quite easily be read as a stand-alone without feeling that you’ve missed too much.

The Ringmaster is a solid police procedural set in New Zealand, which like the first novel is really conveyed well, with it’s unusual plants and wildlife, I almost felt like I was there while reading this book!

The character of Sam really makes this novel. She’s so life like
Karen Cole
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Ringmaster is the second book in Vanda Symon's Sam Shepherd series, following last year's excellent Overkill. Following events in that novel, Sam and her flatmate, Maggie have left small town life and are now living in Dunedin. The move brings fresh characters and new settings meaning The Ringmaster can easily be enjoyed as a standalone and there aren't too many spoilers for anybody reading the series out of order. There are a few faces who make a reappearance too - some more welcome to Sam ...more
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing

The South Island of New Zealand is the setting for this powerful murder mystery, featuring the actions, attitudes and realisations of Sam Shephard. After a book evidently narrating her investigations into troubles in a small town, she has now moved to Dunedin, a bigger city with a University and a larger police department. For unknown reasons to Sam, as a young female detective constable, she has earned the antipathy of the bullying DI Johns, who is continually criticising and sidelining her. As
Julie Morris
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Things have moved on for Sam Shephard since the events of Overkill. She has moved from the small town of Matuara to the bright lights of Dunedin and started her training as a detective. However, she is now at the bottom of the pecking order and not everyone is happy with her fast-tracking to CIB, particularly her boss, who seems to have it in for her and makes her life as difficult as possible.

The books kicks off to a flying start with the disturbing murder of a female student from the
May 13, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.
Good mystery but found the short two-page chapters broke the flow of the story for me.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had the pleasure of reviewing Overkill, the first book in Vanda Symon's antipodean-set Sam Shepherd series, last year and said at the end of my review that I hoped we'd see more from Sam Shepherd and Vanda Symon. Well, my wishes have been granted because the second book in the series, The Ringmaster, has now been published in the UK by Orenda Books!

Although following on almost directly from the first book, The Ringmaster can definitely be read as a standalone. The events of the first novel
Cassandra MADEUP BookBlog
When I picked this book up I had no idea that it was the second to a series, and by halfway I had figured it out and gone hunting to buy the first, for a few reasons!

First, I hate to read things out of order, I find it really stressful to realise that I have. Secondly, I was LOVING the story so much! In fact, I loved it enough that I had to finish the book before starting book one, and I then reread this one. Yup. Loved it enough to read it again a couple of days after finishing it haha.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin. 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. 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
Bucks, Books & Beyond
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I didn’t realise until I had finished reading this book, but this is actually the second in a series featuring the lead character Sam Shephard. The first book in the series is called ‘Overkill’ but ‘The Ringmaster’ is entirely capable of being read as a standalone.

Sam is a tenacious female detective working within the police force in New Zealand. She may be small, but she sure is feisty! She is constantly given a hard time from her superior officer and tasked with following up the small leads
Jacob Collins
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
DC Sam Shepherd is back in the second book in Vanda Symon’s riveting crime series set in New Zealand, The Ringmaster. I remember when I read the last book I was totally gripped by the opening prologue which was so chilling, and Vanda Symon has created another absolute killer of an opening here.

After the devastating events which took place in Overkill, Sam has relocated to Dunedin and has joined the local police force as a detective constable. Sam is desperate to have the chance to move further
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Back in July last year, I read and reviewed the first Sam Shephard book; Overkill (here's my review)
I absolutely loved Overkill and Sam Shephard became my new favourite heroine. I've been so looking forward to finding out just what she gets up to next.

Once again, Orenda Books have totally excelled with this amazing cover. Those colours, and the peaks of the circus tent conjure up such a thrill, and the story inside doesn't disappoint. I absolutely adored this, I read it in almost one sitting,
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
DC Sam Shepard and her colleague Smithy have been called into investigate an incident at the circus in town but you just know that this isn’t going to be the type of circus to bring you laughter and joy! In The Ringmaster Sam has moved from Matuara to Dunedin where she is a trainee detective. Not everyone is pleased for her though, especially after what happened in Overkill (and no, I’m not telling you! You need to go read it for yourself! You can read my review here )

Relationships with her
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I adored ‘Overkill’ by Vanda Symon, the first Sam Shephard (review here) and I was ecstatic when a reading copy of book number two ‘The Ringmaster’ dropped through my letterbox! Sam is one of my favourite female characters, I fell in love with her during ‘Overkill’ and ‘The Ringmaster’ has just strengthened my admiration. The same can be said for Vanda Symon’s writing, I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed spending time with these two ladies again.

We catch up with Sam after events in ‘Overkill’
Between The Pages Book Club (Gemma M)
I am pleased to be one of the blogs kicking off day one of The Ringmaster blog tour. This is book two in the Sam Shephard series but reads well as a standalone with no spoilers to the first book (which I haven’t read yet but want to read asap). The cover is gorgeous, eye catching and relevant to the story.
I absolutely loved and enjoyed every minute of this story. I really lost myself into the case beside Sam the whole time. We get to see a lot of Sams personal life, family and friends alongside
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well ... what do we have here? Book two in the Sam Shephard series by Vanda Symon and life isn't getting any easier for our favourite New Zealand Detective. She should have everything she wanted having been fast tracked to be a Detective in Dunedin, but given that she ruffled a few feathers the last time she got involved in a murder investigation, she doesn't have many friends on her new team and isn't given much opportunity to prove her worth either. Not that it stops her and even being ...more
Larry Darter
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Vanda Symons. The Ringmaster, ISBN 978-0-1430-0834-7

Samantha "Sam" Shephard, the heroine of bestseller Symons' twisty second crime fiction thriller, is a detective in training in Dunedin when she becomes involved in the homicide investigation of a young university student found murdered in the Botanic Gardens. In spite of her grudge holding boss who tries to keep her on the fringes of the investigation, Sam manages to work her way into the murder probe. She discovers the murder is not an
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