Australian mental health specialist Buist’s first novel features (wait for it) an Australian mental health specialist whose caseload, it’s to be hoped, is a lot more volatile than her author’s.
Despite her stellar credentials, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Natalie King has trouble playing with others—most recently, with Crown Prosecutor Liam O’Shea, whom she deliberately tripped on the courthouse steps. Now Liam, a married man whom Natalie both loathes and fancies, wants her to help him get her ex-client Amber Hardy out of jail by pinning the disappearance of Amber’s ex-husband Travis' new baby on Travis so Amber’s confession that she let Bella-Kaye, her own baby, drown in her bath will be thrown out and Travis blamed instead. That’s a tall order, made taller by several wrinkles: Natalie is already juggling a full docket of other women confined to Yarra Bend hospital because they’re suspected of murder, from Celeste, the attempted killer of her pimp husband, to Georgia Latimer, accused of killing three of her four children; Natalie herself is bipolar and constantly going off her meds in search of new highs; and Natalie starts to receive an increasingly pointed series of anonymous threatening messages. Each case entangles Natalie in a different set of legal, moral, and personal complications, and when they draw together, the result is not exultation over hard-won clarity but devastating wonder that one life, and a psychiatrist’s life at that, could possibly be such an unholy mess.
Overplotted and overdramatic; Buist’s heroine never seems to have a normal half-hour. But readers who aren’t put off by the unsparing accounts of women placed in extremis by themselves or wicked men will cheer the arrival of an authentic dragon slayer.