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The Dark Lake - Sarah Bailey

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There were a few minutes when I was alone with her in the autopsy room. I felt wild. Absent. Before I could stop myself I was leaning close to her, telling her everything. The words draining out of me as she lay there. Her long damp hair hanging off the back of the steel table. Glassy eyes fixed blindly on the ceiling. She was still so beautiful, even in death.

Our secrets circled madly around the bright white room that morning. Rocking back and forth on my heels as I stood next to her, I knew how far in I was again, how comprehensively her death could undo me. I looked at Rosalind Ryan properly for the last time before breathing deeply, readying myself, letting her pull me back into her world, and I sank down, further and further, until I was completely, utterly under.

A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses. Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before.

But that's not all Gemma's trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim's past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried. The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths.

The Dark Lake is an addictive crime thriller, a mesmerising account of one woman's descent into deceit and madness, and a stunning debut that is already causing a stir around the world. 

Review by Sarah McDuling

The Dark Lake is an absolutely stunning debut. This is such a beautifully written and utterly absorbing read, it's hard to believe that it's the author's first novel.

I love to get my hands on a good character-driven murder mystery - especially one with a complex protagonist and a plot that keeps me guessing. The Dark Lake delivers all of this and more. The characters and relationships portrayed are so intricate and messy and real. Plus, the atmosphere is so alive, the small town so vibrantly depicted, that it was a real struggle for me to put this book down.

When a beautiful woman is found dead, floating in a lake surrounded by roses, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is called to the scene. Stunned to discover the murder victim is a girl she went to school with - and with whom she shared a complicated history - Gemma is soon drawn into a dangerous web of lies and deceit.

Let me say right now, I love Gemma Woodstock. She is an incredibly strong woman haunted by ghosts of the past, and I was completely riveted by her story arc in The Dark Lake. She sets out to solve Rosalind's murder with dogged determination, while simultaneously falling deep into a pit of traumatic memory.

Perfect for fans of The Dry by Jane Harper.

About the Author

Sarah Bailey is a Melbourne based writer with a background in advertising and communications. She has two young children and currently works as a director of creative projects company Mr Smith. Over the past five years she has written a number of short stories and opinion pieces. The Dark Lake is her first novel.

Not Interesting ended up skim reading!


Was very disappointed with this book, I couldn't engage with the lead character and found Sarah Bailey's overuse of Gemma's sexual needs with her NOT Boyfriend a tad tiresome, first time I read this description I felt like I'd dipped into a book aimed at a teenager. By the time I'd read it the fourth of fifth time I just started to skim read the whole book, just wanted to know who did it, not what else was going on. I love to read Australian Authors but I won't be investing in any more of Sarah Bailey's books.

Gold Coast Aust


Amazing first novel from a local


So book was amazing for her first novel Like I said a little confusing cause it read like an American Crime novel but was supposed to be based in Australia But as the book progressed you forgot about that cause The book found its rhythm.



excellent debut


The Dark Lake is the first book in the Gemma Woodstock series by Australian author, Sarah Bailey. When Rosalind Ryan's body is found in the lake by Smithson Secondary College, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock wants to be on the case, even though it might dredge up some bitter memories for her. Gemma assures her boss that their connection was casual, and she's fine to handle whatever comes up, but she doesn't share certain facts that may affect her performance. Rose taught at Smithson Secondary, and was loved by both students and fellow staff; she was a talented drama teacher and her murder occurred after a first-night performance of her modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The list of those needing to be questioned is extensive: students, family, colleagues and nearby residents. Despite some excellent detective work, progress is slow and helpful evidence appears only sporadically. Gemma may be a good cop, but she's no angel: despite living with the devoted father of her young son, she has a sexual relationship with her work partner, DS Felix McKinnon, and that's just one of the secrets she's keeping. It soon becomes apparent that the townspeople of Smithson are harbouring quite a few secrets, some as hot as the summer they're sweltering through. Bailey crafts her tale with skill: she gives the reader a plot filled with jealousy, infatuation, passion, grief, lust, love and guilt. Clues are drip-fed to reveal twists, tricks and red herrings that keep the reader guessing right through to the explosive climax. With some gorgeous prose, she captures the small country town, the era, the attitudes of the residents with consummate ease. Her characters are multifaceted and easily believable, and their dialogue is what is heard in any small-town school, café, shop or pub. This is an excellent debut novel and readers will be hoping to see more from this talented author.



A great read


An interesting read, set locally. Keeps you guessing.

Melbourne, Victoria


Small town murder mystery


Gemma Woodstock is a young, flawed heroine whose voice stays with the reader after you have finished the book. Although there are some stock elements in the story ; a hot summer, a small town, secrets hidden beneath the surface, there is plenty of originality and genuine suspense. I was willing to overlook a few minor flaws in the plot because it was such a page-turning and enjoyable read. The main character is quite unlike anyone I have encountered in Australian crime fiction before - she breaks all the rules for a likeable character but it works.

Melbourne, Australia


Very engaging read


Kept me interested til the end. Personal and professional intrigue, I hear the author is writing more with this main character and I will check out the follow up for sure.



Get a day job


Completely unsympathetic characters. Author obviously studied too many American crime novels; amongst other things she refers to a callow Australian youth as "all-American". This is not well written, and may have benefited from a good editor.





Amazing first time novel, from the first pages you immediately care about the characters. Lots of twist and that rare book you don't anticipate the ending. Cannot wait for her next book.

Cent West NSW


Look forward to the next book by this author


Great first novel



Great Australian fiction


I hadn't read a book in a while and this has reignited by love of reading. It's hard to believe this is written by a first-time author, the character development is beautiful and the story a page turner. I hope there will be a sequel.



The Dark Lake

3.9 11


ISBN: 9781760295899
ISBN-10: 1760295892
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 448
Published: 24th May 2017
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3

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