Vanda Symon at the launch of her 4th Sam Shephard novel, Bound.
University Book Shop, Dunedin, 2/02/2011
Vanda Symon's third novel Containment was a finalist for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best NZ crime novel for 2010.
I can't wait to read this new instalment. The launch was crowded out, not only with friends and family, and the Dunedin literary set, but also with a flying wedge of forensic scientists whose brains Vanda has apparently been picking (in a manner of speaking, maybe... or maybe not!)
The speeches were revealing indeed. We learn that Vanda is not as innocuous as she may seem, that perhaps it is her proficiency at the sport (or art?) of fencing, that gives her such insight to the way a sharp blade travels through flesh...
We were told that Vanda has recently returned to university and added first class postgraduate qualifications to her pharmacy degree, and is on the verge of launching into PhD research on "the forensics of Ngaio Marsh".
I, like so many other Vanda Symon fans, am saddened to hear that Bound may be the last Sam Shephard novel. Is Sam hanging up her badge? What is to happen to her? Is she OK? (We do worry for the poor lass sometimes, she doesn't always make the wisest of decisions!)
Then I was relieved to hear there is another novel underway... That is good news. Vanda writes well and has an uncommon ability to create believable characters. She has been moving around Dunedin and outlying areas too, and populating it with horrific crimes. In fact, you could say that Dunedin itself is one of Vanda's characters.
I've read enough of this new novel to see that it opens in the small seaside community of Seacliff, North of Dunedin. Fascinating - I have lived in several spots around that area myself and couldn't help wondering which was the house with the gates and the long driveway....
And what a priceless line this is, in describing the derelict site of the old psychiatric hospital:
"In its heyday they'd incarcerated many a poor soul there, including our world-famous writer Janet Frame, who was put there due to the fact she was creative and different. Nowadays they gave you fellowships for that, not lobotomies."
From the Tabby's point of view, quite the nicest thing about this novel is that the author has dedicated it to her beloved cat. It is hard work being the muse asleep near the computer, purring loudly (some might call it snoring!) and it is nice to get a bit of appreciation sometimes...
According to the famous mathematical thought experiment, Schroedinger's cat is neither dead nor alive. So it's a cool concept if you don't like being locked into binaries. Not so good if you don't like being locked into a lethal booby-trapped box. And from the cat's point of view, there is no ambiguity at all.