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  • Excellent Australian crime fiction

    The Long Shadow is a stand-alone rural thriller by Australian forensic psychiatrist and author, Anne Buist. Psychologist Isabel Harris is in the NSW outback town of Riley (very much temporarily, she reassures herself) with her two-year-old son Noah and her accomplished corporate trouble-shooter husband, Dean, while he sorts out the administration problems at the local district hospital. This alone ensures that not all the townsfolk will welcome them with open arms. Barely a week since leaving Melbourne, she is running, with less preparation than ideal, a mother-baby therapy group for five women, some of whom seem to be attending under sufferance. As they work through her usual process, one of the exercises yields a disturbing anonymous note: “The baby-killer is going to strike again. Soon.” No matter how puzzling she finds this, Issy is bound by confidentiality, so any enquiries must be subtly made. She eventually happens upon some information about a case of the kidnap and death of a newborn baby that caused a sensation in the town some twenty-five years earlier. But could that killer still be around? Did it happen the way everyone seems to believe? Who has written the note? And why? And is Dean saying less that he knows? Issy is made even more aware of the unpopularity of her husband’s mission by a series of minor harassments, but when it is revealed that the police have received a letter implying a threat to a baby, related to the hospital review process, she wonders if she should fear for her son’s, and her own, safety. She’d like to return to Melbourne, but there’s a very good reason she cannot. In her therapy group, she has five women from disparate backgrounds with different issues but who are intimately connected to and part of the complex weave of the town, and not yet ready to be completely candid about their lives. It’s a small community that is a little pressure cooker of emotions and ambitions and resentments, set on the boil by Dean’s review. Issy hears conflicting versions of events: “I tried to make sense of this – but it felt like I had two different jigsaws and the pieces had all been thrown together.” Buist expertly depicts the dynamics and the claustrophobic feel of a small outback community where word spreads at lightning speed and everyone knows everyone else’s business, has an opinion on every issue, a conspiracy theory about every event. And where secrets and blackmail fester. Buist’s expertise in the psychiatric field is apparent on every page, her characters have depth and appeal, and her plot is filled with misdirection and red herrings and enough twists to warrant a warning about whiplash injury as Issy tries to uncover what really happened all those years ago, and how it relates to the present day. A degree of patience with Issy’s guesswork is rewarded with an exciting climax and an absolutely stunning resolution that even the most astute reader will have trouble predicting. A brilliant read! This unbiased review is from a copy provided by Text Publishing

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