Detective Sam Shephard is back, promoted (no longer a Detective Constable), working in the same squad as boyfriend Paul and still in head on confrontation with the boss, and slightly off centre confrontation with her mother. Which is particularly difficult as in BOUND Sam's much loved father is dying, just as the case of a brutal home invasion takes most of Sam's attention and energy.
There are some absolute givens in the Sam Shephard series. There's going to be an opening to the book which should have the reader paying attention. Sam is going to be part energiser bunny, part her own worst critic. Whilst the focus of the books remains on Sam, as the narrator of the action, there's always a good supporting cast, and there's invariably an unusual and somehow quintessentially small town plot. In this case, after a violent home invasion in which a man is shot dead in front of his wife, Sam is initially given the job of liaison with and supporting the wife, who was injured in the attack. It's a difficult enough job for somebody who has the sort of mind that doesn't rest and isn't particularly comfortable dealing with raw and very exposed grief and personal retribution - particularly as the couple's teenage son arrived home to find the carnage inflicted on his family.
The complication in this book is that all the while that Sam is working this case, which is, after all a family being forced apart, she has her own family problems with her father succumbing rapidly to cancer. Sam's own relationship with her mother has always been complicated, but the rawness of the grief and suffering of her father makes that relationship even more a minefield, and it's clear that Sam's increasing desire to get more and more into the details of the home invasion case are partially as a way of avoiding the constant confrontation. There's also more turmoil in Sam's personal life that she has to deal with.
Sam is undoubtedly one of my favourite fictional characters. I really like the way that her internal dialogue runs, I like the way she is her most strident critic, and I love the way she's always prepared to leap in where wiser heads might prefer not to tread. I really really liked the way that in BOUND she finally stands up to her bullying boss, I thought the way that she tiptoed around her relationship difficulties with her mother was beautifully done.
BOUND is, however, probably not my favourite book of this series, and it took me quite a while to work out why. I suspect it's a combination of a few things. Firstly, this time there was a considerably more predictable plot and an extremely predictable personal complication. To be fair though, the who and the why of the plot weren't that hard to pick, so having the how of the various threads less obvious did compensate. Secondly, a decidedly lesser showing of Sam's wonderful housemate and voice of reason Maggie didn't help, undoubtedly because she's such a great character but mostly because she works very well as a foil for Sam's more angst-ridden internal monologues. Finally it's also that the mostly personal twists at the end of the book again weren't that hard to pick, and in one case, there was a sort of coyness that seemed a step too far for Sam's personality type.
All of this simply means that out of the entire Sam Shephard series, BOUND wasn't my absolute favourite book. They are, however, one of my all time favourite series, so despite promises to myself that I'd be hoarding this book until the next was on the way (I believe Symons is working on a stand-alone next up), I've now read it and I'm back in that desperately sad situation of waiting impatiently for the next book. Things could get really desperate .... may have to re-read the series from scratch!