The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey (Gemma Woodstock #1)
Published by Grand Central Publishing on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Rose was lit by the sun, her beautiful face giving nothing away. Even back then, she was a mystery that I wanted to solve.
The lead homicide investigator in a rural town, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is deeply unnerved when a high school classmate is found strangled, her body floating in a lake. And not just any classmate, but Rosalind Ryan, whose beauty and inscrutability exerted a magnetic pull on Smithson High School, first during Rosalind’s student years and then again when she returned to teach drama.
As much as Rosalind’s life was a mystery to Gemma when they were students together, her death presents even more of a puzzle. What made Rosalind quit her teaching job in Sydney and return to her hometown? Why did she live in a small, run-down apartment when her father was one of the town’s richest men? And despite her many admirers, did anyone in the town truly know her?
Rosalind’s enigmas frustrate and obsess Gemma, who has her own dangerous secrets—an affair with her colleague and past tragedies that may not stay in the past.
In The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey, there is the sleepy country town of Smithson where not a great deal happens. When local teacher Rosalind Ryan is found dead floating in the waters of a local lake, surrounded by red roses, tensions in the small town run high. It is up to Smithson’s rising star and local, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock to help solve this tragic murder case. Problem is, Gemma is trying her hardest to withhold a pertinent secret in connection to this case. Gemma and Rosalind have a dubious high school history together. The resulting investigation into this revered local teacher’s death opens up a pandora’s box of secrets not only related to the victim but the town itself and residents of Smithson. It is up to Detective Gemma Woodstock to reveal the truth behind the murder at the lake while keeping her personal life in check at the same time.
I was engrossed by the central murder mystery and captivated by the characters. What I loved the most was the author’s portrayal of the police work involved in the murder case. The level of detail and descriptions related to the nitty gritty of a murder investigation was fine tuned and really made this crime novel stand out from the crowd. I felt like I could have been watching it on TV.
Gemma, our leading lady, is the main narrator. With the majority of the novel told from Gemma’s point of view, it is easy to develop a strong level of empathy for this particular character. Her personal life is a mess but this makes her all the more interesting to the audience.
The Dark Lake plays along at a slow and steady beat, aided by the clear timeline of events headed in each new chapter. Lots of time is devoted to setting the scene, developing characters and their motivations. There is no shortage of potential suspects and possible outcomes to Rosalind’s murder. I know I had absolutely no inclination as to the circumstances of the murder until the final reveal. I think this is indicative of Bailey’s skill as a crime writer, to keep you guessing and keep you very much engaged in the unfolding mystery until the final hour.
The Dark Lake is a mystifying story, choosing to reveal its deepest secrets at precise moments. I do hope we hear more from this impressive new writer, Sarah Bailey, very soon.
Let me know what you guys thought of The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey! I would love to hear your opinions as well!
Until next time,
Sarah Bailey is a Melbourne based writer with a background in advertising and communications. She has two young children and currently works as a director of creative projects company Mr Smith. Over the past five years she has written a number of short stories and opinion pieces. The Dark Lake is her first novel.