#aww2021 · 2021 Reviews · contemporary fiction · crime · thriller

Book Review: The Long Shadow by Anne Buist

Title: The Long Shadow

Author: Anne Buist

Published: April 28th 2020

Publisher: Text Publishing

Pages: 336

Genres: Fiction, Crime, Thriller

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 3 stars

Write down something about yourself, as a mother, that worries you.

Psychologist Isabel Harris has come to the outback town of Riley because her husband Dean is assessing the hospital—the hub of the community—with a view to closing it down. Isabel, mostly occupied with her toddler, will run a mother–baby therapy group. But on the first day she gets an anonymous note from one of the mothers: 

The baby killer is going to strike again. Soon.

Then a series of small harassments begins.

Is it an attempt to warn Dean off? Or could the threat be serious? A child was murdered in Riley once before.

As Isabel discovers more about the mothers in her group, she begins to believe the twenty-five-year-old mystery of a baby’s death may be the key to preventing another tragedy.

Review:

Past crimes bubble to the surface in the latest psychological fiction tale from Australian author Anne Buist. The Long Shadow is a dark and agonising story of the internal conflicts present in a rural community in New South Wales.

The Long Shadow closely follows the life of psychologist Isabel Harris, a newcomer to the small Australian outback town of Riley. Isabel, her husband and family have recently moved to the regional base of Riley, where Isabel has gained employment as a psychologist. One of the roles Isabel finds she is responsible for is a new mother and baby group. Meanwhile, Isabel’s husband Dean is charged with the task of investigating the possible closure of the local hospital.  This couple face an uphill battle in assimilating into the tight knit community of Riley. Things become even harder for the newcomers when Isabel’s first day in her new job sees her encounter a shocking baby killer threat. Unfortunately, this is just the start of a number of conflicts this family unit faces as they try to settle into Riley. While the motivation for this threat is unclear, Isabel and Dean know they must watch their backs.

Anne Buist is an established Australian author of three novels featuring Forensic Psychiatrist, Natalie King. Buist has also co-authored Two Steps Forward, a novel penned in collaboration with her husband Graeme Simsion. The Long Shadow is her latest stand alone crime release.

Buist’s representation of the small NSW regional community of Riley is a positive feature of this book. Buist opens the ‘acknowledgements’ section of her novel by stating that Riley is a fictional composition, but it is based on a town named Nyngan, in the Dubbo area. This was an interesting fact to discover, as I felt the whole way through this novel that Riley was brushed with plenty of realism. Buist managed to capture the small-town mentality that often defines these outback locales. I felt that everyone in Riley knew each other’s business, they were a pretty judgmental bunch, but they also pulled together when needed. The focus family in question are clearly outcasts to begin with, but we observe their gradual assimilation, which was presented well.

The Harris family are our guides for the bulk of the novel. Isabel Harris was a protagonist who often had me at odds and I’m still not sure if I agreed or warmed to her character. The Long Shadow features a variety of other characters to contend with, who provide a good dose of conjecture to the unfolding tale. Plenty of page time is devoted to the women of lead protagonist Isabel’s therapy group, allowing the author to draw on her past experiences in the field of psychiatry. I did feel this area of the novel was very authentic and insightful. The core mystery around the past death of baby over two decades earlier is presented in a slow burn approach. However, I did find I struggled with the pacing of The Long Shadow.

The Long Shadow is a book that considers the weight of secrets and lies. With themes of acceptance, identity, belonging and compliance the latest release from crime thriller specialist Anne Buist is worth investigating.

The Long Shadow by Anne Buist was published on April 28th 2020 by Text Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Long Shadow, Anne Buist visit here

*I wish to thank Text Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

The Long Shadow is book #17 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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