‘He wants to take my kids off me.’
Forensic psychiatrist Dr Natalie King has been hired to do an evaluation. This psychiatric evaluation is required for a custody dispute in a case before the children’s court. While this is not Natalie King’s usual area of work, she’s happy to do what should be a routine consultation now that she’s pregnant.
But there’s nothing routine about this case. Jenna Radford and Malik Essa each see the other as being the problem. Malik says that Jenna is crazy and compulsive. And when Jenna accuses Malik of abusing their eight-year old daughter Chelsea, the magistrate hearing the case asks Natalie to investigate further.
This is a difficult investigation for Natalie. She desperately wants to protect Chelsea. On a personal level, the paternity of Natalie’s child has yet to be established and being pregnant has raised several issues. Natalie did not know her own father and she wants to find out more about him. While being pregnant is an added factor as Natalie as tries to effectively manage her Bipolar Affective Disorder. Personal and professional issues are both causing Natalie stress.
While Natalie is quick to establish that Jenna will lie whenever necessary to suit her purposes, it’s necessary to prove (or disprove) her claims in order to protect Chelsea. In the meantime, someone has abused Chelsea: is it Malik? If it isn’t Malik, who is it?
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse provides part of the backdrop to this novel, and everyone is acutely conscious of this. Jenna’s lies, Malik’s anger and Natalie’s preoccupations will all have a part to play in this complex story. Different psychiatric opinions will also cause Natalie concern.
Natalie King is a complex, likeable, flawed hero who continues to struggle with her own demons. I like Anne Buist’s portrayal of a strong woman with mental illness, trying hard to function effectively in what can be a hostile world. This is the third book in the Natalie King Forensic Psychiatrist series and while I’ve yet to read ‘Medea’s Curse’ (the first novel) I think that this series is best read in order. I’ve picked up quite a bit of Natalie King’s backstory from ‘Dangerous to Know’ (the second book), and the backstory is important in this series.