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The Dark Lake

The Dark Lake is a strong exemplar of how a well written murder/mystery should be produced. The novel is structured in such a way that information necessary for the reader, is always given at appropriate times. This leads to chapter headings such as “Now, Then, and… Chapter Twelve, Monday, 14 December, 7.32 am.” The reader feels drawn into the situation, and is always aware of the time frame.  This does not detract from the fluency of the story, as the past is revisited when pertinent.

 The main character is a detective, Gemma Woodstock, who lives in a small Australian country town. Although she is a complex character with issues, it is easy to understand how the practical, calculating logic of her position helps her keep unpleasant thoughts at bay. Her co- worker, Felix, has just joined their unit, and he and Gemma have developed a relationship. The female detective has a partner and a much adored son Ben about two years of age.

 Because she lives in a small town, most families are known to the policewoman, as she went to school with many of the locals. It is with great astonishment that Gemma hears that a woman whose class she was in has been found murdered. Rosalind, the victim, went to the local High School, went away to University, and had returned to teach English and Drama. She is as popular with the students as she is with the staff, and recognised for her great teaching. However, more is gradually revealed about the relationships that Rosalind had with her family and fellow students. Her brothers described her as manipulative, and certainly her beauty was no hindrance in persuading others to bend with her will.

 For a short time, we are lulled into the routine which police enquiry demands. Persons of interest are questioned; bit by bit small additions to information given start to appear. We are also drawn in to the Australian summer weather which sizzles and wears people down. The Australian touch is authentic and enjoyable.

 Gemma leaves work to pick up her son from day-care. She is told he has already been picked up by his grandmother. Gemma’s mother died when she was a child, and there is no other grandmother. The terror that grips her is accentuated by her reactions. She immediately contacts the Police Station, who sends all officers out to glean information. This has to be a warning of some kind, and distraught family and friends seek to help. This case has become very personal now, but rather than back off, Gemma is very determined to solve this puzzle and bring the perpetrator to justice. It is truly a battle of wits!

 The end of the story is satisfying and logical. The reader can see the motive clearly, and respond to the situation. The storyline is riveting, and the absence of overt violence and gore is welcome. This is a very difficult book to put down, once you have started to become enmeshed with the characters and their lives.

Author Sarah Bailey
Publisher Allen and Unwin
ISBN 9781760295899
Distributor Allen and Unwin
Released June 2017