The Ringmaster (2008) was Vanda Symon’s second crime fiction novel, which features Sam Shephard, a young sole-charge female police constable in Mataura as the main character. Penguin New Zealand decided they wanted a series of crime fiction novels about Sam Shephard in a new series of crime novels set in New Zealand after Overkill‘s success at publication in 2007, so Vanda Symon followed up with The Ringmaster in 2008, Containment in 2009, and Bound in 2011. In The Ringmaster, Sam Shephard has moved to the city of Dunedin from small-town Mataura, burning all her bridges. On the bottom rung of the detective training ladder, Sam is sidelined from a murder investigation by her grudge-holding boss. Assigned to peacemaking duties between the visiting circus and animal rights protestors, Sam uncovers a link between the circus and deaths spread throughout the South Island, sparking serial killer fears.
“Symon is part of a new wave of Kiwi crime writers, and THE RINGMASTER shows that we should feel no cultural cringe when devouring local stories in this most thrilling of genres. Of the many admirable aspects of Symon’s storytelling, chief is her creation of Sam Shephard, a protagonist you want to follow; headstrong, passionate, and flawed… Symon’s talent for creating well-rounded characters permeates throughout… Another impressive facet; from the opening Botanic Gardens murder, to Highlanders games, and student life, Symon brings Dunedin alive.” (Excerpted from Crimewatch)