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Chaos reigns in the sleepy village of Aramoana when shipping containers washup on the beach and are looted.

Detective Constable Sam Shephard knows first-hand the desperation of the scavengers - she's got the scars to prove it.

Plus a skull in the sand.

And a body pulled from the ocean.

The undercurrents from one morning's madness are far-reaching.  Who else will be caught in the backwash? Can Sam stem the tide?

Finalist - Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel - 2010

Containment was one of three finalists nominated to win the inaugural Dame Ngaio Marsh Crime award. Along with Neil Cross, and Alix Bosco (pseudonym), Vanda was delighted to have her third book in the running for the award.

"For this Ngaio Marsh fan to make it into the final of the Ngaio Marsh Award is just too exciting for words." - Vanda Symon - Aug 2010


"This is a 300+ page cracker of a contemporary crime fiction novel set in and around Dunedin ... A compelling whodunnit with all the usual twists and turns so loved by readers of the crime fiction genre... "
      Graham Beattie, Radio New Zealand

Published: 23 Nov 2009
ISBN 13: 9780143202295
ISBN 10: 0143202294
RRP: $28.00
Pages: 32
Edition: 1
Imprint: PENGUIN

Containment - Prologue

What had started as a small crowd of bewildered residents huddled against the seeping chill of a dark Dunedin winter morning had grown to a string of awed and silent spectators lined from the tip of the Mole to the end of the Spit. Their vehicles occupied every conceivable snippet of vacant real estate while those still arriving attempted improbable turning manoeuvres in streets never designed for heavy traffic. Across the harbour entrance the distant play of car headlights winding from Taiaroa Head to Harrington and beyond held testimony to similar scenes.

August's watery sun was rising on the horizon, pushing back the vestiges of an eventful night, revealing an unlikely tableau. Shafts of lemon light struck the bridge roofline of the Lauretia Express, accentuating the unnatural tilt of her peak. Fingers spread along her container deck, the play of light and dark giving it the appearance of a decayed jaw studded with random teeth. The hulk of the stilled ship dwarfed the buzz of tugs, pilot boats and inflatables that strafed the stricken hull with spotlights.

The scale of the accident was all too apparent to the shivering crowd stretched along the Mole. The ship towered above them like an eight-storey building, marooned at an impossible angle. The strobe of camera flashes added to the eerie atmosphere, creating a stilted cinemascope of the Lauretia's demise.

Those further down on the spit huddled in clusters before the incongruous sight of iceberg-like containers, some beached upon Aramoana's sands, some not so fortunate to find dry land. People moved in slow motion swarms, circling, pointing, whispering in reverent tones at respectful distance. The whispers cut off as three young men approached one of the metal boxes. The low sun bathed them in hallowed light as they ran their hands over the surface, and then grasped the door handle and pulled. The security seal was no match for determination. The creak of metal grating on metal cut through the tense air, puncturing the silence. Stillness of held breath followed, then a collective gasp from the crowd. An invisible line had been crossed and as if upon signal, the masses descended as vultures upon the carcases. Eager hands grasped at doors, greedy arms lifted out cartons, motorbikes, furniture, tossing aside that deemed unworthy, plundering that deemed treasure. Fights and scraps broke out among those determined to have the best of the bounty, while the moral minority stood back, appalled but helpless. Anarchy had hit Dunedin.

Soon the detritus of pillage was strewed across the beach; ornaments, books, papers, clothes. Those not actively emptying containers poked through the cast aside, pocketing the desirable. An elderly woman, wrapped up against the cold, shoulder draped with her just found bounty of a red woollen coat, poked another pile with a piece of driftwood. She bent over closer to examine the glimpse of shiny white that tantalised from beneath a pile of garments, and then reached out a hand to push aside the coverings. It took several moments before her mind took in the eyeless sockets of the human skull and another five seconds before her lungs sucked in enough frigid air to unleash a scream.