The Shadow House by Anna Downes
When Alex drives up to her new house with her teenage son Ollie and new baby Cara in tow, she feels a surge of relief – and panic. She’s running away from Sydney, from what she’s left behind, and the eco-village of Pine Ridge is the perfect place to start anew: a caring community, a serene environment, people looking out for each other. Best of all, nobody knows where she is. So really, the dead bird in a box laid out for her arrival is not the welcome gift she was expecting.
As Alex manages her new life, negotiating her brittle temper with a wailing baby and screen-addicted teenager, she can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong, that she’s not welcome. Then there’s that neighbourhood story. The one about a witch. A witch who takes children. A witch who heralds her plan by leaving something dead for you. Years ago, a teenage boy went missing at the farmhouse that now sits abandoned in the valley – his disappearance beginning in eerily similar circumstances. The question of whether Alex has found her place to settle – or if she ever will – has never been so urgent.
Anna Downes grips readers right from the beginning in this truly unsettling domestic horror tale. Her words are as haunting as the pine forests and rundown houses, and she hypnotises you with the beauty of the surrounds – a lush dam, a wide-open sky and caring neighbours. Alex is no perfect mother (I mean, nobody truly is) but you will be as desperate as she is to unravel the truth behind what’s happening. This is the kind of thriller that will have you locking your doors and panicking about every little sound outside. And really, if that’s not what we want from our crime books, I don’t know what is.