Isabel Harris has temporarily moved from the bustling city of Melbourne to the outback town of Riley – population 2,500 people. Her husband Dean, ‘the Red Adair of hospital administration stuff ups’, has been given the task of assessing the local hospital. It’s a community hub where many of the town’s residents are employed.
A psychologist, and mother to two-year-old Noah, Issy starts running a mother–baby therapy group soon after she arrives, for a small group of local women. It’s the first time she’s run a group like this, and she’s had little time to read through their files. When an anonymous note is passed to her on the first day, from one of the mothers: ‘The baby killer is going to strike again’ she is at a loss as to who has written the note and what it alludes to.
Bound by confidentiality, Issy is unable to share the note but starts to do some investigating of her own. She is initially met with rumours and hear-say but there was a baby death 25 years earlier. When the local police receive a letter from the baby killer claiming they will strike again things begin to get serious.
Was the letter written to warn Isabel and Dean off or threaten them? Were there political or financial reasons behind it or is the person who kidnapped and murdered a baby 25 years ago worried about being exposed? And which one of the women tried to warn them?
As Isabel gets to know the women in her group and the stories of their past begin to unfold, the danger grows. Moving to Riley was supposed to be the perfect opportunity to sample country living but was it a mistake and will the pressure on the already fragile marriage of Issy and Dean be too much?
The Long Shadow is a gripping read and author Anne Buist paints the small town of Riley perfectly, capturing the claustrophobic atmosphere that comes from everyone knowing each other’s secrets – or assuming they do. That authenticity could be attributed to the time she spent in Dubbo and Nyngan researching.
As Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, she is also perfectly placed to write about many of the psychological issues examined in the book. She has thirty years’ experience in perinatal psychiatry and works with the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. It’s clear that she has drawn on her expertise in creating the character of Issy, the complex weave of the town, and various challenges the characters have.
Described as Aussie noir, this psychological thriller has the strong appeal of a rural setting. There is a strong country community and friendships that are for life, as well as secrets and blackmail along with lots of twists and turns. If you’re new to Anne Buist then she has a great back list to explore, more crime and a collaboration with husband and fellow writer Graeme Simsion.
The Long Shadow is Australian crime at its most gripping so make sure you grab a copy and settle in for a thrilling ride.