Three months into her new role as a psychiatrist at a clinic in New York, Erin Cartwright is asked to evaluate the case of a man who murdered his mother and sisters at the age of seventeen.
Found not guilty by reason of insanity and held in a maximum-security psychiatric facility for twenty-seven years, Timothy Stern is now eligible for release. Upon learning the crime occurred in the same village she once visited as a child, Erin is on the verge of refusing to take the case, when a startling discovery triggers memories she’d rather keep hidden, and a suspicion the wrong man is behind bars.
There were so many secrets, so much hidden in The Shadow Bird that it was impossible to put the novel down.
You already knew about the brutal murder of the Stern family, but not what supposedly drove Tim Stern to do it. And what about Erin, psychiatrist sent to assess Tim for imminent release from his psychiatric unit? Was she really all she said she was or did she have her own secrets to hide?
Gosslin, in Erin, gave us a complicated character, seemingly a woman who excelled at her job, a career on the up, but that was merely superficial. Gosslin took us deep into Erin’s own psyche as she wrestled with her own demons, small hints of tenuous connections between herself and Tim Stern. It piqued your interest, made you want to understand her own past trauma’s and difficulties, as you urged her on to pull all the various strands together and come up with the answers.
Tim Stern, our perpetrator was Gosslin’s jewel in the novel, so well did she portray a young man completely lost in a living hell. You could tell Gosslin had done her research, her knowledge of his supposed psychiatric condition presented in a scary, but heart wrenching way. You questioned his guilt, a man trapped, not only mentally but physically.
If the novel centred around Erin and Tim it also swirled around the murder of Tim’s mother and sisters. The circumstances confusing, brutal, his father, the friends who hovered at the periphery, as Gosslin gave you a community with a claustrophobic small town mentality everyone somehow connected via school, clubs, and events.
As Gosslin deftly switched between past and present the picture cleared, as Erin risked both her professional and personal life to unearth the truth.
I loved how she pushed the boundaries, as the need for answers outweighed the consequences, and the reader felt the tension, the premise that something had to give, that it wouldn’t necessarily be pleasant for Erin.
Gosslin left the best until last, a dramatic final, a few surprises, but clarity and satisfaction, no loose ends, no need for the reader to read between the lines, to assume.
The Shadow Bird was a fantastic examination of psychiatry, of what drives the human being to commit crime. It also examined the consequences of those involved, of the collateral damage. It was dark, and unsettling, but with chunks of light that provided that perfect balance.
A brilliant debut.
I would like to thank Legend Press for a copy of The Shadow Bird to read and review and to Lucy Chamberlain for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Ann Gosslin was born and raised in New England in the US, and moved overseas after leaving University. Having held several full-time roles in the pharmaceutical industry, with stints as a teacher and translator in Europe, Asia, and Africa, she currently works as a freelancer and lives in Switzerland.
The Shadow Bird is Ann’s debut novel. Her second novel, The Double, will be published by Legend Press in 2021.