Title: The Medea Complex
Author: Rachel Florence Roberts
Source: from author for review
Review Summary: This book was a haunting psychological thriller that kept me quickly turning pages, but it was also great historical fiction with a plot that perfectly fit the time period.
Lady Anne has been committed to Bethlem insane asylum, declared unfit to stand trial for a crime she doesn’t seem to remember. Her husband is unsure whether to love her or hate her and may harbor dangerous secrets of his own. Dr. George Savage simply wants to restore Lady Anne to her sanity and return her to her husband. However, when events spiral out of control both Dr. Savage and the reader will be forced to question everything they’ve learned about Lady Anne and her husband.
This book was great both as a thriller and as historical fiction. The mystery element sucked me in right away. Little bits of what happened were slowly revealed from the perspectives of Lady Anne, her husband, and Dr. Savage. This was done very skillfully. Even though I was kept in the dark about facts the characters knew, I never felt that the author was awkwardly manipulating the characters’ thoughts or the dialogue to keep these facts hidden. It was just enough to keep me constantly curious about what happened next without getting frustrating. My only complaint with this part of the book is that the constant surprising revelations usually were obvious to me before the characters reached the same conclusions. This made some of the most intense moments of the book feel a bit anticlimactic because I was there before the characters were.
From a historical fiction perspective, I really enjoyed that the plot was so tightly integrated into the time period. The author based many of her characters and plot points on real people and events. The way women and the insane were treated in the late 1900’s was essential to the plot and the plot gave interesting insight into the time period. There were a few tiny typos in my pdf version and the dialogue was occasionally a little rough, but for the most part, the writing was perfect for the time period. The author did a great job capturing language and attitudes that would have been prevalent at the time. Even cooler, she drew on many primary sources when writing some of the psychologists notes and other parts of the book. Although the material in this book was a bit darker than my typical fare, it completely won me over with the engaging mystery and excellent historical setting. Definitely an author I’ll be watching out for in hopes of a follow-up to this spectacular debut.