Anna Downes – The Shadow House Book Review

Anna Downes

The Shadow House

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hodder Paperbacks 

Language ‏ : ‎ English

Paperback ‏ : ‎ 384 pages

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1529375126

ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1529375121

14th July, 2022.


English-born-Australia-based author Anna Downes is set to make the charts again.  Last year’s paperback debut success, The Safe Place, made her a name to be reckoned with. Now  The Shadow House delivers a rich, deeply disturbing trek into the world of loss and longing. Oh, and more than a hint of the supernatural.

First the bones. Then the doll. Then the blood.

When single mother Alex arrives at her new home with her two children, she can finally breathe easily. Pine Ridge, a rural community near the Australian coast, is beautiful, peaceful and far away from the trauma she left behind.

Then unexplained boxes start arriving at the house.  Alex’s teenage son begins to retreat into himself more than ever. As rumours and legends swirl through the community, Alex realises Pine Ridge is guarding long-held secrets of its own.

Something is lurking in the shadows. Alex and her family are in grave danger. She must protect her children from the dark before it engulfs them. Seductively scary, Anna Downes’ The Shadow House is full of twists; a plot riddled with questions and so crammed with intrigue it’s almost greedy. An absolute must for the beach this summer, particularly if you’re planning on staying there all day.

Alex is a joy. Deeply flawed, but nonetheless likable and dislikeable in turns, hers is a life filled with regret. However this has not yet dimmed the light of her hopes. A delightfully drawn, three-dimensional woman of determination, Downes has also provided her with a sense of both vulnerability and drive that is simply captivating.

What really stands out, though, is that there isn’t really an antagonist. Potentially, there are many. The others Alex encounters at the retreat are all, on the face of it, similarly disaffected individuals in search of something ‘other’.

Kit is a hunky enigmatic leader, that’s in no way a Koresh stereotype, whose motives remain a mystery. Maggie is a dyed-in-the-wool ‘no room at the inn’ merchant, opposed to change, and is the voice of ‘anti-immigration’ from the outside.  And Layla is warm and welcoming.

Then there are the struggling farmers Michael and Renee – from whose viewpoint the story is also told – both of whom are so weighed down with issues of their own.

The setting of a barren stretch of drought-ruined outback Australia is the perfect backdrop for the sinister events that gradually unfold. While the dialogue helps the plot zip along and so keeps everything flowing in a torrent of uncertainty.

Also available on Kindle and Audible.