“‘Let it never be said that I have left my children for my foes to trample on.’…Medea killed her children to punish her husband.”
Opening Hook: Probably a dick, they were everywhere
Main Character: Pet Parrot and Leather
Plot Twisty-ness: The Winona Ryder meme with math equations
This book wasn’t really what I expected it to be – it’s a mystery, but definitely not a thriller, and has a lot more erotic elements than I would reasonably expect from a story like this.
But Dr. Natalie King isn’t really what you expect a forensic psychiatrist to be either. She’s outspoken, emotionally dysfunctional and has no problem pushing a prosecutor down courthouse steps. She’s bi-polar and irresponsible with her meds. She rides a motorcycle, fronts an amateur band and has a pet parrot. She lives in a warehouse and has affairs with married men. But she’s a mothereffin’ queen in her field – dedicated to her patients and to finding the truth. And I basically fell in love with her as a lead character.
It’s a good thing that this is the first in a series, because there is so much more that can be done with a character this badass and damaged.
Natalie is the sun of this story – everything revolves around her. And there’s definitely a lot of planets in rotation here. Natalie has four different patients who she is seeing primarily – Georgia, Tiphanie, Amber and Jesse – each has a story that is important to the overall plot of the novel. But it was a lot for me to keep track of. I found myself getting lost in the details of everyone’s lives – who was married to who, which child belong to what woman, who was in jail, who was on parole, who was still being investigated.
The therapy sessions themselves, and the psychological exploration of each character, was flawless and undeniably interesting – given the author’s history, this isn’t surprising – but I felt like perhaps being from this field herself, Buist may have underestimated how adept the laymen reader would be at keeping track of so many different patients. By the 70% mark I basically had everything neat and tidy in my brain, but up to that point, I found my reading experience was really marred by a confusion that was a little more frustrating than what you usually have reading a mystery – typically you’re thinking “whodunnit?” and not “wait, who is this person?”
The themes of the book are pretty dark – infanticide and child abuse – but there is nothing graphic per se. All the women Dr. King is evaluating have either killed their children or been accused of killing their children or have been abused as children, and you get to experience their deepest feelings about these issues through Dr. King’s treatment of them. I wasn’t sure if things were connected in a larger picture up until the last 10% of the book – and again, this was a little bit distracting – but everything came together is a very satisfying way, no threads left loose, so I can’t complain.
During all of Natalie’s cases and questions about these women, and a pedophile ring, she realizes she’s being stalked. Someone is leaving her letters, USBs with videos and notes on them, breaking into her home, leaving dead rabbits at her door – just generally creating a sense of unease for Natalie. I suppose this would be why people are shelving this as a thriller, but really it did nothing for me. I found it pretty tame, kind of boring, and was more much engaged with Natalie’s patients and how they intertwined together.
There’s a lot of sex in this book. At first it was jarring – we were just talking about a woman drowning her baby in the bathtub and now Natalie’s tied up to the bedpost? But the more I think about it, the more I realize how these scenes really shaped my opinion of Natalie and her character – it was actually pretty clever writing. But, if you don’t like reading about blow-jobs and orgasms, maybe just skip those paragraphs. (But really, we all love a good orgasm. Amiright?)
My only real complaint about this book is the writing style. It’s very sparse in too many areas. It focuses so much on dialogue and the psychological/medical aspect (which is on the fucking nose, don’t get me wrong,) that I was really missing a sense of setting, atmosphere, and an explanation of other characters and their relationships. There is very little character building outside of the obvious about Natalie. When you meet a character there is no introduction – they’re just there. And it took so much of my reading time to try to figure out who each person was in Natalie’s life. The paragraphs are very choppy, as well. Transition, or segue, does not exist. When you thought a conversation was just getting started it would abruptly end and move on to a new chapter.
My rating really reflects how annoying I found this. But the overall story is ridiculously authentic and I am a sucker for this kind of in-depth psychology so 3.5 stars rounded up.
book source: Legend Press via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
*Migrated review, originally posted to Goodreads in March 2017
Back of the Book:
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?
Anne Buist, herself a leading perinatal psychiatrist, has created an edge-of-the-seat mystery with a hot new heroine – backed up by a lifetime of experience with troubled minds.