Medea’s Curse by Anne Buist
‘Natalie understood this woman no better than she had at the start. She couldn’t tell whether she had been talking to Wadwha’s fragmented soul or a cold-hearted monster.’
First published in Australia back in January of last year, Medea’s Curse has made its way from Buist’s motherland to the shelves of respected independent publishing house Legend Press.
Medea has been reworked countless times throughout Greek Mythology and literature. She has been depicted as a woman scorned, rejected by her husband and seeking revenge; compared with forces of nature and powerful animals; portrayed as a manipulator and a liar. In Euripides’ play, Medea does not conform to the traditional representation of women according to Athenian philosophy – she is skillful and intelligent, a cold-blooded murderess. Buist’s novel features more than one figurative Medea – Georgia, the jealous and manipulative mother who may have killed her three children, Tiffanie, the cunning young woman who is almost definitely hiding something, and Amber, pushed to the edge by a violent husband.
Forensic Psychiatrist Natalie King is caught up in two cases of possible infanticide, as well as entangled in a criminal case that ethically she shouldn’t be going anywhere near. Add to that a suspected pedophile network and an aggressive stalker who is only getting more threateningly persistent, and Natalie has a lot to contend with.
Natalie herself is a complex female protagonist. Not necessarily likable at times but always relatable in one way or another, Natalie is tasked with writing a report on Georgia for the courts, while treating Jesse, interviewing Tiffanie and holding up a steamy relationship with a married man. The Irish ‘bad-boy’ charm of Liam O’Shea comes across as a little bit ‘chick lit’ – the sex isn’t necessarily needed in this psychological thriller, which stands its ground through the troubled characters and their backstories. Having worked as a perinatal psychiatrist, Buist knows her stuff when it comes to abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder, and yet I felt the character of Natalie could have been fleshed out a little. It’s not clear why she is so determined to hide her Bipolar Disorder, but I’m certain readers would feel a lot more empathy towards her, and the choices she makes, were we given any access to her history; instead, her manic episodes are only ever mentioned briefly and grazed over.
Infanticide, sexual abuse and murder fit well with Legend Press’ impressive catalogue of fiction; it’s no surprise they’ve taken on this novel, which will sit well alongside the works of Ruth Dugdall, Jane Isaac and Joanne Graham.