Book Review: The Dark Lake

THE DARK LAKE | Sarah Bailey
10.03.2017 | Grand Central Publishing
Rating: 3.5/5 stars


Rosalind Ryan has been found floating in the lake early one morning by a jogger in her rural hometown of Smithson. The night of Rose’s death was the debut of her play, a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, performed at Smithson High School where she was teaching. Widely admired throughout the town for her stunning looks and intriguing personality, the play drew many audience goers, and all of them are now a suspect. Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock and her partner Felix McKinnon are placed on the case. Gemma is also a native Smithson resident and it quickly becomes obvious that Rose was more than just a classmate in Gemma’s past.

Rose was lit by the sun, her beautiful face giving nothing away. Even back then, she was a mystery that I wanted to solve.

Gemma Woodstock must learn to confront the ways in which Rose impacted her high school life in order to figure out the truth of who she really was. Interviews with those in positions closest to Rose reveal that they don’t truly know much about her personal life. Despite the lack of solid information from people who consider Rose a friend, Gemma and Felix find themselves unveiling secret, after secret that Rose kept from those around her. Why did she decide to leave her previous teaching position in Sydney to return to a hometown she didn’t enjoy? Why did she choose to live in a quaint apartment, when her father is a wealthy business owner? Does anyone really know who Rose Ryan actually was?

Rosalind’s death has formed a blanket over Smithson: mixing with the relentless heat, it’s a creeping vapor-like cover that sticks to everything.

THE DARK LAKE is a debut novel from Sarah Bailey and the start of a series focusing on Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock. Marketing this novel as a thriller presents a reader with certain expectations that I don’t believe this novel is able to meet. THE DARK LAKE is very much a mystery and a piece of crime fiction, but it is also a study into the life of Gemma Woodstock. Bailey provides the reader with information on her current life events, as well as her past, which plays a role in her current case. At times I almost felt as though I was reading two novels that had been combined. The subplots regarding Woodstock’s past and current life could easily have been shortened and tailored in a more relevant manner. The novel as a whole is a slow-build to the revelation of the killer and the motives behind Rose’s death. I would recommend this read to someone interested in starting a new crime fiction series focused around an intriguing main character.

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing, Sarah Bailey, and NetGalley for providing me a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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