26 May 2024

Review: THE DARK LAKE, Sarah Bailey

  • This edition made available by my local library
  • published in 2018
  • ISBN 978 1 76063 297 7
  • 432 pages
  • #1 in Gemma Woodstock series
  • winner Ned Kelly Award for best first novel, Winner of Davitt Award for best debut

Synopsis (publisher)

A hot summer. A shocking murder. A town of secrets, waiting to explode. A brooding, suspenseful and explosive debut that will grip you from the first page to the last.

A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses. Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before.

But that's not all Gemma's trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim's past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried. The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths.

The Dark Lake is an addictive crime thriller, a mesmerising account of one woman's descent into deceit and madness, and a stunning debut that has caused a stir around the world. 

My Take

I first reviewed this book in 2017. I am rereading it for my U3A Crime Fiction group.

Like the victim, Gemma Woodstock is working in the town that she grew up in. She has some background knowledge of the victim and her family. In some ways that should be an advantage in a police investigation but Gemma underplays how close her relationship with Rosalind Ryan was. In fact she lies to her boss, and she probably should have stood herself down from the investigation.

Her boss "Jonesey" is so taken with what he sees as Gemma's brilliance that he is more than willing to accept her assurances at their face value. More than that he is prtty well a boss that doesn't rock the boat. However there are times when he should be much more asserive and observant.

One of the blurbs I have seen describes Gemma as troubled and brilliant. I would add damaged and unstable.

Rosalind Ryan has returned to the town of Smithson that she grew up in and has been teaching English to senior students there for four years. She has persuaded the principal to allow her to produce a version of Romeo and Juliet. The play is a great success with the students and Ms Ryan is very popular. The production occurs late in the last school term, after exams. It is opening night when Ms Ryan is killed, found face down in the lake the following morning.

THE DARK LAKE is tightly plotted and takes concentration from the reader. The plot has several twists. The investigation into Rosalind Ryan's murder takes nearly 3 weeks, approaching Christmas and New Year. Almost everyone in the town comes under intense scrutiny and there are few clues.

In addition a number of issues and relationships in Gemma's life cause complications, her young son is abducted, and Gemma herself is attacked. 

The plot structure is interesting with narrative from "then" accompanied by daily accounts of what is happening in the investigation.  Most of the latter are from Gemma's point of view. However these are supplemented with short third person accounts of incidents where Gemma is not a witness. 

The Australian setting is very strong, and the weather plays a strong role too.

Secrets Gemma Woodstock is hiding

  • the extent of her connections with Rosalind Ryan and the role she played in past events
  • what happened to Jacob Morgan
  • her relationship with her Sergeant Felix McKinnon

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin