cover image The Shadow House

The Shadow House

Anna Downes. Minotaur, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-26484-8

Fleeing from yet another bad situation, single mother Alex, the protagonist of this gripping if flawed psychological thriller from Downes (The Safe Place), heads for Pine Ridge, a new development billed as an ecovillage, with her 14-year-old son, Ollie, and her eight-month-old daughter, Kara. Though Pine Ridge is a far cry from their city life, Alex feels instantly at home in the Australian countryside. Paying in cash, Alex rents a demo house model for three months, pleased to be warmly welcomed by Jenny, her helpful new neighbor, and other residents each seeking a better way of life. Almost immediately, odd things begin to happen: a dead bird is left in a box on the family’s steps; eerie carvings appear on trees. Is there any truth to the tale of the Pine Ridge witch, or is there something more human at play threatening Alex and her children? The distinctive setting and well-drawn characters, especially Ollie, compensate for a convoluted plot that offers no hints of the principal characters’ dramatic backstories until the big reveals at the end. Downes remains a writer to watch. 125,000-copy announced first printing. Agent: Hillary Jacobson, ICM Partners. (Apr.)