The Dark Lake (Sarah Bailey, A&U)
Police detective Gemma Woodstock has lived in the regional Australian town of Smithson for her whole life, stuck there by a compounding trail of grief, love, comfort and childbirth. An affair with her partner seems to be all that’s keeping her afloat until she is drawn into the investigation of the murder of young schoolteacher and Gemma’s former schoolmate Rosalind Ryan. The case becomes muddied by Gemma’s inability to separate the deceased Rosalind from the mysterious figure she knew in high school. Gemma’s life becomes increasingly fractured in the destructive wake of Rosalind’s death, putting herself and her family at risk. Debut author Sarah Bailey depicts both the landscape and Gemma’s state of mind vividly, bringing into focus the intensity of Gemma’s physical and emotional pain and her increasing discontent. Shifts into outside perspectives sometimes pull away from the narrative, but also show that Gemma cannot hide her secrets. The Dark Lake is a solid police procedural. It adds to the trend of haunting, rural Australian crime fiction, and provides a welcome addition to the genre for those left bereft after finishing Jane Harper’s The Dry.
Fiona Hardy is a bookseller at Readings Carlton