What a title! Given that human society has been contained for the last 12 months. Doubly so with the current predicament of Ever Given in the Suez Canal, for Vanda Symon’s novel begins with a similar maritime disaster. I had to read this for Kim’s Southern Cross Crime event.

Not only is the Laurentia Express marooned off the coast of New Zealand, but she has lost cargo. The containers have washed up on the beach at Aramoana, where local folk are having a good old scavenge. Detective Inspector Sam Savage, off duty, thus in plain clothes, just happens to be in the vicinity that weekend. She becomes embroiled in an altercation with two men fighting over a single piece of loot, and ends up unconscious, in hospital, on sick leave. It could have been worse. Her assailant ends up battered almost to death …

Returning to work and her swine of a boss (my words but believe me Shephard and her colleagues have a catalogue of more colourful invective), she is assigned, as officer in charge of a body found at sea. This is a mistake as it turns out to be a murder case. Her chief inspector would never have given her the privilege of being lead officer in that, but his hand is forced. However, the discovery of the body coming so soon after the shipping accident and the scavenging, there is bound to be a link to the assault on Sam. There is and she is issued the stay away from this order. She is instead assigned to the tracing of an antique collector’s belongings, which are assumed to have been scavenged from the beach.

Now this (English!) man just oozes pheromones, and Sam, the commitment-phobe is already in a quandary about Paul, a man who wants more. Sam’s hesitancy is going to cause all manner of issues and I really enjoyed this interplay and contrast between the professional and the personal, because Sam’s professional persona is anything but hesitant.

I also enjoyed the pacing. It’s not frantic; there’s a very grounded police procedural with real consequences here, albeit sprinkled with the rule-bending that you can only get away with in crime fiction. That said, it remains to be seen if Sam does get away with it. That and a final twist in her relationship with Paul means that I am Bound for a rendezvous with Sam Shephard #4 in the very near future.

P.S Note to the Universe

I purchased Containment at the Orenda Road Show in the February 2020. It was my final live event before lockdown. It really is time for you to enable us to open up again. I’m more than ready and I’m not alone! Please get on with it!