The Dark Lake

By Sarah Bailey

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The Dark Lake is Sarah Bailey's debut novel and the first in the Detective Gemma Woodstock series. This crime novel, with its mystery and meticulous pacing, keep you turning the pages. 

Rosalind Ryan, a beautiful young teacher, is discovered dead in a lake after the successful opening of her first school production; a contemporary reimaging of Romeo and Juliet. Roses lay strewn around her dead body. Gemma doesn't disclose that she'd attended the same school as Rosalind to ensure she remains on the case. She also keeps her past obsession with Rosalind buried deep inside her.

For Gemma, the lake holds other secrets that begin to surface as the investigation continues through the summer's heatwave.

The story hooked me from the very start. Gemma Woodstock’s characterisation was authentic and believable. Gemma is a good detective who also possesses her fair share of flaws. Bailey has created a complex character driven by her work as a detective, yet struggles with the relationships in her life, including her belief that she is a good mother. Gemma’s painful memories of her first love and her mother's death still hamper her choices as an adult. 

 

There is a well-balanced split between the murder investigation and Gemma's personal life. I enjoyed this dual narrative structure as it made this crime genre more personable. The use of the first-person point of view, brought me right into Gemma's life, allowing me to experience her emotional turmoil with her.

 

The language was evocative and filled with images that engaged all my senses. I found Bailey’s wordsmith to be unique. Not a cliché in sight. Bailey has masterfully created the Australian rural landscape with the summer heat playing a significant role in the narrative, adding to the suspenseful atmosphere. 

 

I couldn't put this book down. The plot was intriguing and the suspense kept me wanting more. Bailey is a gifted writer who has a beautiful way with words. The Dark Lake deserves all the awards it has achieved.