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Thursday, November 29, 2018

REVIEW: The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey @grandcentralpub @sarahbailey1982

The Dark Lake
by Sarah Bailey

Thanks so much to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for this copy.
A year later... better late than never! I've had this on my kindle for ages and in anticipation for book two, I had to devour this with a quickness!
See what Jessica and I thought of book one below!


Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: October 3, 2017
Kindle Edition
448 Pages
Series: Gemma Woodstock #1
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Crime


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


The lead homicide investigator in a rural town, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is deeply unnerved when a high school classmate is found strangled, her body floating in a lake. And not just any classmate, but Rosalind Ryan, whose beauty and inscrutability exerted a magnetic pull on Smithson High School, first during Rosalind's student years and then again when she returned to teach drama. 

As much as Rosalind's life was a mystery to Gemma when they were students together, her death presents even more of a puzzle. What made Rosalind quit her teaching job in Sydney and return to her hometown? Why did she live in a small, run-down apartment when her father was one of the town's richest men? And despite her many admirers, did anyone in the town truly know her? 

Rosalind's enigmas frustrate and obsess Gemma, who has her own dangerous secrets—an affair with her colleague and past tragedies that may not stay in the past.

My Review:


Let's see... let's see... how do I write this review without any spoilers?! 
First, I can't believe I've let this sit on my kindle and in my NetGalley for over a year now - EESH!  With book two in the series coming out, it got my butt in gear to read this. Second, this is her debut?! Thoroughly impressed!

As an avid reader of thrillers/crime fiction, it takes a lot to really give me that WOW factor.  What I loved about this book was the characters.  Scott, Gemma, Felix... the suspects.  I always wondered what it would be like to grow up in a small town where everyone knows your business and then I read books like this one and am mostly glad I never did. 😏  Let's talk about Gemma for a bit - a highly complex characters, extremely flawed and I can't figure out if I love her or if I hate her.  I will say this though, I was more intrigued with her story line than with the case at hand, which made this feel more like a gritty drama more than crime fiction.  

The book tends to go from past to present as we learn about Gemma's past and how it intertwines with the present.  Without any headings, it was a little confusing at first to realize that we were now in the past.  Once I got used to the chapter patterns it became a little bit easier but I think it would have benefited a little from some seamlessness.  I really enjoyed the backstory and thinks it lends a lot to the story and to learning about Gemma.  Especially as this is a series and is setting up the tone for future books.

As a more character driven novel than focusing on the crime/police procedural aspect, I'm curious to see where Bailey goes as the series continues.  Good thing I have book 2 on my kindle and can dive right in.  😉

★★★☆

Jessica's Review:



THE DARK LAKE by Sarah Bailey is book one in the new Gemma Woodstock series. This psychological crime thriller is set in a small Australian town in New South Wales. With a murder to solve, this could push Detective Gemma Woodstock to her breaking point, and threaten to reveal dark secrets from her past.

The small town of Smithson is shocked when the young drama teacher, Rosalind Ryan, is found dead. Surrounded by roses, she was found in the lake, strangled to death. Homicide detective Gemma Woodstock, and her partner Felix, are on the case. However, this case will prove to be difficult for Gemma, not only because there are a host of suspects, but because she has a past with Rosalind. Secrets from her personal life threaten to come to the surface as she digs deeper into this murder. Will her obsession with Rosalind be her undoing?

This was a great psychological thriller, but it is a slower build and more character driven. We get to dive into Gemma's personal life, which is a mess. She has a young son, Ben, and her loving boyfriend Scott. Despite that, she is carrying on an affair with her partner, and still harbors a love for Jacob from her past. Bailey does a great job diving into the past and how Gemma and Rose knew each other. They went to school together, but were never friends. Rose was the popular girl that everyone loved, while Gemma was one of the few that had darker opinions of her.

Overall, I can see this being a book that people will be split on. It focuses more on Gemma and her story rather than the murder of Rosalind. If you aren't a fan of the more character driven thrillers, then this probably won't be for you. This keeps a steady pace even though it's a steady build. Bailey did a fantastic job layering the characters and setting the scene. Gemma is a hard person to like - she's flawed and is psychologically all over the place. I thought this was very well-written and I'll be looking for book two!

I give this 4/5 stars!

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