The Dark Lake is Australian author Sarah Bailey's debut novel.
DS Gemma Woodstock is the lead investigator in a rural Aussie town. When a woman is found dead in a local lake, Gemma recognizes her from their high school days. But she downplays this connection. Why? "It's amazing what you can keep buried when you want to." The dead woman is an enigma - her students adored her and her colleagues admired her. But as the investigation continues, Gemma discovers that no one really 'knows' Rosalind, including her own family.
Bailey sets up the reader with not one, but two mysteries - who killed Rosanind and what event occurred in Gemma's past that she is so determined to keep hidden.
Gemma was an interesting lead character. She's smart and driven to find answers. But. She's also playing a dangerous game with her personal life. I didn't agree with the choices she was making and the actions she took to pursue that choice. I can't say that I liked her partner Felix either. I was intrigued by Rosalind. We only get to 'know' her from other's memories and observations though. I would have like a peek into her life from her own point of view.
Bailey's use of the 'then and now' technique gives the reader small glimpses into Gemma's past and then flips back to the present. The book is equally divided into a search for the killer and a character driven exploration of Gemma and her life.
Bailey gives us lots of options and characters to choose from for the closing 'whodunit' and the final answer was clever. I did find the reveal of Gemma's secret to be a bit of a letdown and the resolution she finds in her personal life in the final pages to be somewhat cliched. The book weighs in at 400+ pages. I feel this could have been tightened up a bit, as Gemma's dilemma became somewhat repetitive after awhile and I found my interest slipping.
I think this may be the first in a series. If so, I would be curious to see where Bailey next takes her character. Read an excerpt of The Dark Lake.
I think The Dark Lake is a solid debut, but the publisher's comparisons to Tana French and Paula Hawkins may be a bit ambitious at this stage of Bailey's career. I think I'm in the minority on this one, so please weigh in if you've read it already.
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