Medea’s curse


As a woman in a patriarchal society Medea is powerless. In Euripides’ tragedy of the same name, she is the wronged wife who exacts a chilling revenge on her husband by killing their own children. The play horrified audiences two thousand years ago and is regularly performed today as one of the great tragedies. A woman who murders her own children is seen as a monster; she has broken one of the most basic rules of civilised life. But what if she sees it as her only option to avoid a situation that would be even more intolerable?

Medea’s Curse, Anne Buist’s debut novel from Legend Press (shortlisted for two Davitt* Awards – Best Adult and Best Debut) is a psychological thriller. It explores child abduction and murder from the point of view of Natalie King, a kick-ass forensic psychiatrist who rides a Ducatti and plays in a band. She’s bipolar but doesn’t always take her medication and is pulled into a missing child case through her attraction to the married prosecutor, ultimately putting her reputation and life on the line. To add to the complications she is being stalked and another child is missing.

As someone who has experienced clinical depression and worked with vulnerable children and their parents, I was keen to read a novel that explores issues around women’s mental health and the circumstances that might possibly lead to infanticide. There are short passages when the novel could be described as ‘a thrilling read’, but most of the time I felt I was observing a cast of interchangeable, bland characters in a featureless setting while being bombarded with psychological jargon and psychobabble.

On the cover Lisa Hall is quoted as saying the novel ‘keeps the reader guessing to the very last page’ and I will give her that. But by the time I reached the last page (and well before) I was so turned off the characters, especially the main one, that I really didn’t care anymore. Anne Buist is clearly a very experienced psychiatrist, but Medea’s Curse does not live up to the hype and I was very disappointed.

Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and has over 25 years’ clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry working on cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder.  Anne is married to novelist Graeme Simsion and has two children. Follow Anne on Twitter @anneebuist


*The Davitt Awards (named in honour of Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud in 1865) are presented annually by the Sisters in Crime Australia association. The awards are presented for Australian crime fiction, by women, for both adults and young adults. They were established in 2001 to mark the 10th anniversary of the association – Wikipedia.


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