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The Ringmaster

Published Date: 5th October 2018

Available in


18 February 2018
18 April 2018


Death is stalking the southern 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.


 ‘Vanda Symon’s fast-paced crime novels are as good as anything the US has to offer – a sassy heroine, fabulous sense of place, and rip-roaring stories with a twist. Perfect curl-up-on-the-sofa reading’ Kate Mosse


‘Symon’s talent for creating well-rounded characters permeates throughout’ Crimewatch


‘A plot that grabs the reader’s attention with a heart-stopping opening and doesn’t let go’ Sunday Times Crime Club


‘Powerful, cooly assured, and an absolute belter of a read’ Liz Robinson, LoveReading


‘It is Symon’s copper Sam, self-deprecating and very human, who represents the writer’s real achievement’ Barry Forshaw, The Guardian


This one’s a cracker’ Liam McIlvanney



Vanda Symon (born 1969) 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 hit 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.

Online Reviews

‘I adored this book so much – it made me laugh, cry, grimace and cheer. The Ringmaster is the second book in this crime fiction series set in New Zealand. The writing is fabulous and, as with the previous book, Overkill, I was drawn straight into the story by the chilling prologue … Vanda Symon writes with a distinctive style, with acute observations, vivid imagery, sharp witty dialogue and plenty of humour. I actually laughed all the way through the book – other than one scene that made me cry, but more on that shortly. Some crime novels could be set anywhere in the world, but The Ringmaster definitely brings the New Zealand setting to life. I found myself Googling locations, towns and even plant life, so that I could picture them as I read onwards … In summary, The Ringmaster wowed me with its twisty journey, weaving various threads together, right through the shocking, and surprising, ending. This gripping series is a definite ‘must read’ for me – and for anyone else who loves entertaining, humorous crime fiction with plenty of heart’ Off-the-Shelf Books


‘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 interest and I hope we get to see that develop in future books. Knowing how the story ends I’m fascinated to know where Sam will go from here and if she has it any easier trying to nice up the ranks. A series I would be happy to just keep on reading. The Ringmaster is fast paced with short chapters so you just can’t put it down. An attention grabbing deadly read’ Not another Book Blogger