After preparing an ostensibly routine psychiatric evaluation in a custody case, forensic psychiatrist Natalie King finds herself in court. The mother in the case, Jenna Radford, has claimed that her ex, Malik Essa, has sexually abused her eight-year-old daughter, Chelsea.
It is clear Jenna will lie whenever it suits her purpose, which raises many questions. Natalie must find out if the abuse is real, or a fabrication. She must dig deep to find out if Malik is the abuser, or if it is someone else. With Chelsea’s safety and happiness at stake, Natalie must tread carefully.
But Natalie is not just a psychiatrist, and her personal life distracts her from the case. She is newly pregnant, and her baby’s paternity is yet to be proven. Neither of the potential ‘candidates’ are Natalie’s ideal. Both come with complications. And her pregnancy, the ongoing case or both are driving her to revisit the mystery of her own father’s identity.
This I Would Kill For is the third book in the Natalie King series by Australian psychiatrist and author, Professor Anne Buist. As it follows on almost directly from her second book, Dangerous to Know, with many of the large cast of characters in common and minimal backstory, readers may benefit from reading the earlier books first.
Against the backdrop of the Royal Commission into Child Abuse, Buist’s story shows how some of the players deciding a child’s custody have their own agendas, whether it be political correctness and supposedly doing the right thing or keeping to a budget and staying under the media radar. With Natalie temporarily entering the dubious world of Twitter, she becomes privy to racial and religious prejudices. Later, she feels the knife of social media twisting in her spine as the keyboard warriors turn their attention on her.
This instalment develops Natalie’s complex character. She is a reasonably likeable, flawed hero who struggles with her own demons. Although I have almost had my fill of psychiatrists and detectives carrying so much baggage, they’d never get a seat on a cheap-flight plane, I enjoy Buist’s portrayal of a strong woman with mental illness, trying hard to function effectively.
Pregnancy adds another dimension, and, without her motorbike and booze, Natalie gets her kicks from driving a borrowed Lotus, having lost none of her passion for life nor her sexual appetite. That said, sometimes the introspection about baby, baby, baby bored me rigid.
None of the other characters are stereotypes – each has depth and are real people behaving convincingly. This I Would Kill For is original and believable. Although there is more than one twist, there is too much foreshadowing, and it was easy to guess the climax and the abuser from quite early on.
Buist’s expertise in mental health is apparent in every paragraph, though sometimes it reads like a textbook. As a psychological thriller, it did not have me turning the pages, but as an intriguing case study, it proved an interesting read. I’d prefer a little less baby-talk, explanation and preaching next time, though.