The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Author: Sarah Bailey
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Format: Paperback
Genre: Mystery | Suspense


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.


Let’s get this out the way first, and start with the fact that THE DARK LAKE wasn’t a bad read, but then again, it wasn’t a great read either. Billed as a suspense thriller to rival Paula Hawkins and Tana French—who I’ve never read—is setting this one up to fail.

This slow-burn police procedural has an erratic, and somewhat eccentric start that’s focused more on the MC, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock, who narrates this one in the first person POV, while other scenes are told in third person omni. Making it a little disjointed.

As a character study of the MC, this one is rather quirky, and, as a narrator, who’s thoughts and emotions we’re privy to, Gemma comes across as something of an odd one and, quite possibly, an unreliable narrator at that. She’s certainly also self-obsessed with the deceased Rosalind (Rose) Ryan—who is barely fleshed out if at all.

This is definitely more a character study as there is little in the way of action, though the plot is complex enough to keep it interesting. How ever, there are no real surprises, and I felt like I knew what was coming long before it happened. The mystery surrounding Rose was okay, if not, a little underwhelming although there were a few enjoyable ah-ha moments.

As an opener, THE DARK LAKE was enjoyable enough if you realise the whole premise is a set-up to introduce us to Gemma, her backstory, and that’s she’s a damaged, flawed woman who doesn’t always make the best personal choices.

That said, not an attention-grabber and not enough depth to make me want to read the next installment in the series. Just too bland.

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