BOOK REVIEW: The Shadow House by Anna Downes

Single mother, Alex, has taken her two children (fourteen-year-old Ollie and baby, Kara) to live in an ecovillage (Pine Ridge) far away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney, Australia. Pine Ridge used to be a flower farm and its landscape is dominated by a large farmhouse which no one lives in and, curiously, no one seems interested in renovating. Alex’s reasons for moving to the village are complex. She has a history of running when things get tough and, this time, it’s an abusive relationship she’s fleeing from. She’s tired and frustrated– her daughter is teething, she’s getting no sleep, and her son is secretive, hostile, and not at all happy with the move.

At first glance, the village seems idyllic, but upon arrival at the house she’s renting, Alex discovers a box left on the porch which contains, ominously, a dead bird. Strange carvings on the trees along the forest path, noises in the night, and her own anxiety for the safety of her children, create an atmosphere of unease and tension. Add in, a story told to Alex by one of the local children of a witch living in the woods who could be targeting her son, Ollie, and you have the perfect setting for a ghost story.

The Shadow House, A Novel by Anna Downes is what I’d call “Australian Gothic” at its best. Everyone in this novel has secrets, some benign, some fraught with peril. The narrative switches back and forth between two women – Alex, telling her story in the first person, and Renee, the former occupant of the farmhouse. Slowly, secrets are revealed as the tension increases and the mysteries escalate.

I really enjoyed this novel. A Gothic page-turner, it kept me interested and on the edge of my seat from the prologue to the surprising ending. Highly recommended for fans of Gothic literature.

I’d like to thank the publisher, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this novel.