Book Review: Dangerous To Know

Dangerous To Know by Anne Buist
Review by Kylie Thompson

Genre: Crime

In ‘Medea’s Curse’, heroine Natalie King was risking it all for her patients. But the consequences weren’t what she’d hoped. The strain of events has seen her bipolar become unmanageable, and ‘Dangerous To Know’ finds Natalie leaving hospital, and starting the struggle to get her life back on track after a major depressive episode.

The idea is simple: move to the country, escape the constant memories of the city, and bring some quiet and stability into her life. But as with all the best laid plans of mice and men, things don’t go smoothly.

Her charming, handsome boss is struggling to cope with his wife’s pregnancy, after the tragic death of his first wife and their unborn child. Frank is the sort of man that women can’t help but look after, and Natalie is drawn in as a confidante and friend, even as she can’t help but question his motivations. Is he playing games? And is there a more sinister motivation than chasing Natalie’s skirt?

Despite her best efforts, Natalie can’t escape her past mistakes, and with evidence mounting that someone is out to get her, moving to the country might just be the biggest, and last, mistake Natalie will ever make.

It’s far too common in fiction to have the hero blithely carry own, immune to the consequences of their actions, or barely troubled by the aftermath. Here, though, Buist has made a point of ignoring that trope, and letting her character deal with the multitude of consequences for her actions. She’s lost friends, lost confidence, lost the respect of people she values. And yet, there’s a strength to Natalie even at her most vulnerable. It’s hard not to like Natalie, impossible not to want to see her triumph. And as the stakes rise, ‘Dangerous To Know’ becomes the kind of book you’ll want to take a day off work to finish.

One of the strengths of Buist’s work is that Natalie’s bipolar isn’t just a minor personality quirk- it’s an ever looming threat, and a core part of her personality that cannot be ignored or denied. It makes for a painful read at times (at least, if you’re one to suffer from second-hand mortification), but it adds a realism to Natalie that many authors would shy away from.

Oftentimes in fiction, mental illness is depicted as a slight quirkiness, easy to miss and rarely problematic. Bipolar tends to be shorthand for hyperactive, with occasional blue days scattered in for contrast. But Natalie’s bipolar isn’t there to be a minor personality hitch, so much as an ever looming threat. There’s an underlying menace to Natalie’s mania, one that threatens to rip away her credibility as a narrator, and as a psychologist. Overall, there’s a tension to Buist’s writing, to the constant tightrope walk between sickness and health for Natalie. Every decision has consequences for the cases she works, but also for her own health and wellbeing. It makes for deeply engaging, edge of your seat reading.

Because Natalie often works with abused women, or women whose children have been harmed, Buist’s work might be triggering to some readers. But even without graphic depictions of child harm, Buist doesn’t shy away from the the darker side of mental illness, and it’s probably good to know that going into the series. This certainly isn’t a reason to avoid Buist’s work- if you can stand the subject matter, the Natalie King series is a thrilling and dynamic exploration of fractured psyches and broken heroes. If you love your crime with Australian flair and more than a little danger, Buist is an author you need to look into.

‘Dangerous To Know’ is published by Text Publishing, and is available in both physical and ebook format at the major retailers.

Rating: 4 stars

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