The Shadow House by Anna Downes

‘There was nothing better than a fresh start.’

Alex flees from an abusive relationship with her two children: teenaged son Ollie and baby daughter Kara. She moves from Sydney to Pine Ridge, an ecovillage fifty kilometres north-east of the NSW Central Coast’s suburban sprawl. Alex has three months to decide whether life at Pine Ridge is right for her and her family and initially she thinks it is perfect.

But not everyone is as welcoming as Kit, the founder of the ecovillage, and some unsettling events shake Alex.

‘The bones come first. A gift, but nothing wanted. Next, a doll: a likeness, a promise. And the blood marks the choice. It finds a face and then you know.’

There is an abandoned farmhouse on the hill opposite the village, with a history. The family who used to live there lost a child: their son went missing. There is a rumour now that the house is haunted.

The story shifts between Alex in the present and Renee, the mother whose son went missing from the farmhouse. Alex is drawn to the farmhouse, to try to uncover its history. It seems that someone wants to drive her out of the ecovillage, and she is very tempted to leave. But Alex realises that she cannot keep running from uncomfortable decisions: her children need certainty and continuity.

‘Create the life you want.’

An unsettling read with a few twists I did see coming, and a few I did not. If you enjoy twisty thrillers, I can recommend this.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Affirm Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith