Review - MEDEA'S CURSE, Anne Buist
When they say "write what you know" Anne Buist seems to have taken that advice very much to heart, especially when it comes to the clinical and working experience of her central character - Dr Natalie King. Hard to say about the Ducati, history of mental health problems and clothes sense.
MEDEA'S CURSE starts out in extreme acceleration mode with the back story of a contretemps on the steps of the Court, followed by an encounter with Crown Prosecutor (and later sex interest) Liam O'Shea, and the disappearance of a child. The father of the missing child was also the father of a dead baby, one that her mother had pleaded guilty to killing. That mother, Amber Hardy, is in prison, and both O'Shea and King aren't convinced she should be there. Hardy's story, her partner (and the father of both children) Travis, and his new daughter and partner are quickly expanded, along with that of another patient of King's, and from there the cast gets more complicated with work colleagues, fellow band members of King's, O'Shea as a love interest, the drummer of the band as a love interest, a mad cockatoo, the bike and Hardy's own therapist.
Needless to say, in the first half of this book readers will need to be paying attention. There's a lot of characters, a lot of back stories, a lot of interactions and a lot of health and welfare information imparted. King is a complicated person in her own right, what with her own mental health problems; a "friends with benefits" relationship; problems with work colleagues and patients; a strong sexual attraction to O'Shea (despite his being married); her relationship with (and tendency to try to snow) her own therapist; and a reckless disregard for her own safety - not just because she rides the Ducati.
To be fair though, paying really close attention might mean that some flaws become slightly over-obvious. Such as why she's somewhat blasé about her personal safety despite the increasingly threatening behaviour of a stalker. It's doubtful that I was the only reader screaming "security camera's..." for a big part of this book. Whilst it may be that much of the personal jeopardy elements of King's behaviour were not completely unbelievable, they did became increasingly frustrating. And then there was all that pet bird disregard. Okay if you want to put on your security system version of a nightie and high-heels and trip around with a candle fine, but somebody needs to think of the bird!
Of course it is possible that many of the worst of the unbelievable elements were designed specifically to show King's tendency for erratic behaviour. Just as her increasing concern, and involvement in the lives of her patients is designed to show the caring, considerate part, but it did prove a major distraction at points.
On the upside there's certainly nothing wrong with the pace of this plot, as for all it's complications and interwoven elements, it rips along at great speed, and King is an interesting new character on the Australian Crime Fiction scene. Edgy and difficult, complicated and unusual, she's got a lot of potential to be a very welcome addition. Perhaps now that her foibles and strengths have been established, and the pattern of behaviour and craziness established, future books will have a little less of the kitchen sink feel about them. Especially as it's hard to imagine that King's going to be spending any time near anything as mundane as a sink.
Forensic psychiatrist Natalie King works with victims and perpetrators of violent crime. Women with a history of abuse, mainly. She rides a Ducati a size too big and wears a tank top a size too small. Likes men but doesn’t want to keep one. And really needs to stay on her medication. Now she’s being stalked. Anonymous notes, threats, strangers loitering outside her house. A hostile former patient? Or someone connected with a current case? Georgia Latimer — charged with killing her three children. Travis Hardy — deadbeat father of another murdered child, with a second daughter now missing. Maybe the harrassment has something to do with Crown Prosecutor Liam O’Shea — drop-dead sexy, married and trouble in all kinds of ways. Natalie doesn’t know. Question is, will she find out before it’s too late?