1885. Anne Stanbury – Committed to a lunatic asylum, having been deemed insane and therefore unfit to stand trial for the crime of which she is indicted. But is all as it seems?
Edgar Stanbury – the grieving husband and father who is torn between helping his confined wife recover her sanity, and seeking revenge on the woman who ruined his life.
Dr George Savage – the well respected psychiatrist, and chief medical officer of Bethlem Royal Hospital. Ultimately, he holds Anne’s future wholly in his hands.
The Medea Complex tells the story of a misunderstood woman suffering from insanity in an era when mental illnesses’ were all too often misdiagnosed and mistreated. A deep and riveting psychological thriller set within an historical context, packed full of twists and turns, The Medea Complex explores the nature of the human psyche: what possesses us, drives us, and how love, passion, and hope for the future can drive us to insanity.
Set in the nineteenth century, based on a true story and real life characters of the time, The Medea Complex covers genres from an historical psychological thriller leading to an historical mystery thriller. The story holds a fascinating rawness and realistic storyline, following a new mother and her mental state since the birth of her child, how she reacts and copes to treatments and the people surrounding her and leaves the reader wondering if her husband remained in love with her or sought revenge for the situation she has left him in.
After killing her young infant son, Lady Anne Stanbury is committed to Bethlehem Hospital, deemed insane and therefore escapes the legal procedure of being sentenced (if found guilty). Anne is confused and believes she is being held for ransom by criminals as she cannot remember anything in regard to her husband and deceased child. And during this time the reader has an insight into how Anne is treated at the hospital by it’s members of staff.
The story opens up very dark, moody and a little depressing considering the main focus on a woman unable to cope with her young to the point she ends his life and ultimately is losing her mind. And yet, the author has made it so gripping and intense that it draws the reader in, making it such a pleasure to read. It is informative of the time, well-researched and yet written for a reader to follow the characters and storyline with ease, leaving a desire to read more.
Another area that intrigued me was the way in which the author tells the story from many perspectives; Lady Anne, Doctor George Savage, Edgar Stanbury (Anne’s husband), Lord Damsbridge (Anne’s father) and Beatrix Fortier (Anne’s maid and companion). This allows the reader to understand and perhaps empathise with the characters, their mindset and their actions.
Once the reader is aware of the situation that Lady Anne Stanbury is in the story goes on to focus on the many conflicts that all of the characters battle. Initially we are aware that Anne has conflicting memories and confusion of where she is, why she is there and what she remembers before entering the Bethlehem Hospital.
Doctor Savage is trying his best to carry out his work on the hope of curing Anne, whilst using the occasional method that Lord Damsbridge, Anne’s father, doesn’t approve of for his daughter. However, Lord Damsbridge funds the hospital thousands of pounds and wants his daughter treated in a specific manner. He can be a little threatening towards Doctor Savage, leaving the doctor the option to either follow or disobey his orders.
I love this maze of objectives and emotion that Rachel Florence Roberts has weaved into the story. It makes the story in many ways have more than one central character, bringing the reader close to all of them and trying to work out constantly what choices they will make and how they will execute their plans.
As the story unfolds past the first few chapters the reader begins to realise that Lady Anne’s husband, Edgar Stanbury was from a poor background. He has married into nobility and yet with no son and Anne in hospital he has no hold of Asquith Manor or the wealth that Lord Damsbridge could pass onto the male heir of Anne’s. To stay, Edgar needs Anne cured and another son to be born to claim the lifestyle for himself. Edgar also battles his confusion of whether he loves or hates his wife. Does he blame her tremendously for their sons death and long for revenge or does he love her and hopes for a better future with her?
Last but certainly not least is Beatrix who doesn’t take kindly to Edgar. The staff feel that he wants them fired and that his presence is purely for financial gain due to his background but as Asquith Manor is not his home yet she feels safe for now and uses her time to look out for Lady Anne.
In the latter half of the novel it becomes more an historical thriller/mystery, as opposed to psychological, with the reader constantly guessing what has taken place, who was involved, whether sanity had a role to play or not and there are many twists with nothing left unanswered at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed this read regardless of its dark subject matter. It certainly opens eyes to all standpoints involved. And I cannot emphasize enough just how well-researched, understood and written about this era is in this story. It is a real stand-out and will not leave your mind in a hurry.
A copy of The Medea Complex was provided by the author in return for an honest and fair review.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker