The Dark Lake

The Dark Lake

by Sarah Bailey


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A tight-knit community is shocked by revelations from decades past in this "enthralling" (Associated Press) literary mystery that "will keep you racing toward the end" (Lisa Gardner).

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. Brilliantly rendered, THE DARK LAKE has characters as compelling and mysteries as layered as the best thrillers from Gillian Flynn and Sophie Hannah.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781615527694
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 07/17/2018
Series: Gemma Woodstock Series , #1
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 71,056
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Sarah Bailey was born in Melbourne, Australia, where she has lived all her life and currently resides with her two young sons. She has a degree in journalism and has a career in advertising. She is currently a partner at creative agency, Mr Smith. The Dark Lake is her first novel.

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The Dark Lake 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
CLynnT More than 1 year ago
Sarah Bailey’s writing style caught my attention from the first chapter. I hope she keeps writing, for she has me hooked. We meet Gemma, a detective in a rural town of Smithson, in New South Wales, who lives with her boyfriend and their 2-year old son, Ben. The startling first revelation is a medical issue (don’t want to spoil it for you) that Gemma responds to with little or no alarm. Quickly and without preamble, we realize Gemma is in a heated affair with her co-worker, Felix. A dead body is discovered early one morning at a lake behind the school. Gemma is called in and realizes the victim is Rose, a student who was in Gemma’s class. Rose is a natural beauty who always kept a silent enigma, completely different than that of her father and brothers. As Gemma and Felix dig into the private life of Rose, nothing makes any sense. She lives as a minimalist, yet hoards expensive makeup and drinks expensive liquors. Through these beginning hours/days of the investigation, we begin to see that Gemma is a very unbalanced, risk-taking, unhappy and unhealthy young lady with secrets of her own. The author’s style of throwing in an odd thought from time to time makes you work to realize this character is terribly dark and flawed. As the investigation continues and more and more of Gemma’s life begins crashing into the history of Rose, the mystery for the reader gets more complex. Although you have compassion for Gemma, you want to shake some sense in her to realize what she’s doing to herself and her family. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dark psychological thrillers and a strong, unpredictable loose cannon female protagonist. You won’t be able to stop reading until the last page. (I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to Allen & Unwin and NetGalley for making it available.)
Fictionophile More than 1 year ago
We meet Gemma Woodstock when she is in a bad place, personally. She lives with Scott, the father of her three-year-old son, yet she does not love him. She has just suffered a miscarriage of a baby conceived with her married lover and police partner, Felix McKinnon. And... she has never recovered from the suicide death of her first love, Jacob. "I felt the deep guilt of someone who wished for a different life." Now, an old schoolmate/nemesis of Emma's is found dead in the lake backing on the high school. A jogger found the body lying near the shore - covered in long-stem red roses. The woman, Rosalind Ryan, was a well-liked teacher at the high school. She was, and had always been stunningly beautiful... "I knew how far in I was again, how comprehensively her death could undo me." Emma and Felix are tasked with the homicide investigation. Emma makes light of her previous associations with the dead woman so that her boss will allow her to work on the murder inquiry. Secrets. Secrets. Secrets. Who would have wanted to murder Rosalind Ryan? Was it someone at the school - a teacher, a student? Could Jacob's younger brother be in some way involved? Could it have been one of Rosalind's wealthy family members? As Emma and Felix investigate, Emma becomes more and more morose. She is revisiting her past. A past when she, Rosalind, and Jacob were part of a love triangle. Emma receives a bouquet of red roses at her home. The card reads "Beautiful things are hard to keep alive". Then, the case becomes even more personal when her tiny son is kidnapped... MY THOUGHTS The setting of this novel played a huge part in the story. The small town of Smithson, New South Wales, in December. The lead up to Christmas - and they are suffering an oppressive heat spell. Smithson is a factory town. The local cannery employs most of the residents. Emma Woodstock is a very interesting, very flawed character. She lost her mother suddenly at the age of thirteen. Then, when she was only seventeen, her boyfriend Jacob commit suicide. These were both traumas that have affected her every waking moment. I usually like damaged characters, yet, despite my wanting to care for her more, I found that something about Emma was 'off'. I can't quite put my finger on why I feel this way. The writing was spectacular and the book did not read like the debut novel it is. The characters were written with empathy and the imagery was such that the heat was palpable. The murder mystery was well executed, with a resolution that made sense. In summation, I do recommend this novel. I feel that it will be a favourite of many. There was just something that for me personally, made it a 4-star read.
alleenna More than 1 year ago
The book is written mostly in the detective’s PoV, 1st person, with occasional chapters in 3rd person from different other characters’ PoVs, with the timeline alternating between present and flashbacks from the past. It is a psychological crime mystery, character driven, not very fast paced, but nonetheless rather captivating. There are basicaly two main layers to the story: one is the murder and solving it, but another big part is centerd on the detective, her pesonal life and thoughts, and her relashionship with the victim. Dislikes: sometimes the phrases were too simple and short, giving a feeling of discontinuance; some annoying gestures and repeating words (ex. Rosalind – a mature woman theoreticaly – keeps stamping her feet like a spoiled child). I did like that Gemma accepts/owns her youths' mistakes, although she seems to still wallow in them even now – there were times when I found her irksome, but also times when I felt sorry for her.. Another thing I liked were the introvert anxiety parts, especially the ones about hating to socialize with strangers and have small talk, they felt familiar and pretty well written. The ending was ok, even if some of the twists were easily forseeble. Overall, quite a good book, especially considering that it’s a debut. I would try some of Sarah Bailey’s books in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read.
The Eclectic Review More than 1 year ago
"It’s amazing what you can keep buried when you want to." A body is found in the small Aussie town of Smithson. She was Rosalind Ryan, a local drama teacher and pregnant. Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is assigned the case with her partner, Detective Sergeant Felix McKinnon. The detectives find out this is not a cut and dried case, and how is Gemma’s history with her old schoolmate, Rosalind, connected to the case? There are a lot of secrets to be discovered, and Gemma and Felix have a lot to lose if their affair is one of them. There a lot of twists and turns in this story and several characters are introduced. It is a bit long and drawn out in that I knew who the killer was early on and, in my opinion, it could have been wrapped up then. The title of the book is fitting as the story is dark throughout and many of the characters have dark secrets. It was a mediocre story at best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved that the characters were not all typical ‘perfect’ or strictly ‘good or bad’ people - reflects real life
Valerian70 More than 1 year ago
Although the main thrust of the book purports to be about the murder of a late 20-something schoolteacher just prior to Christmas, this is actually a book about our main protagonist Gemma Woodstock. The murder forms the backbone of the book but everything spirals out from there and it can be quite an uncomfortable read. I just could not connect with the main character at all. She constantly harks back to a failed High School relationship with Jacob and very definitely wears rose-tinted spectacles when she does. This is easy for her to do as he committed suicide at Sonny Lake before graduation and she blames herself. This has clouded her judgement and vision for the next 10 years; when an old classmate, Rosalind Ryan, is found murdered at Sonny Lake it just brings everything to ahead. It isn't her retrospection that annoys me, or even her infidelity with a colleague, there is just something deeply unlikeable about the character. I think it is her innate selfishness that bothers me so much and her almost brutal refusal to meet anyone even halfway. The procedural parts of the book are handled very well with large periods for the Smithson Police Force where they simply have nothing to go on and are reduced to rehashing old interviews hoping that something will suddenly leap off the page at them. This rings very true to life, less so is the misogyny towards Gemma. I am sure this did/does take place but the Feminist agenda is rather high in this sections of the book and it annoys me. Gemma has been with this same Police Force for a large number of years now and proven herself to be good at her job so her gender would be largely forgotten by her colleagues. I sort of enjoyed the book but I was beginning to get bored by the end if I'm being honest. The strangest thing about it all, for me, was thinking of Christmas taking place in blazing heat and yet still having a Pine Tree in the home - I know this is reality for a goodly number of the people on our planet but as a Northern Hemisphere resident it just feels wrong. Also, the bonbons confused the heck out of me until I realised that they are Christmas Crackers and not the sweet treats. A generally solid book about the Human Condition with a bit of Thriller thrown in. Passes the time adequately but didn't really get my imagination running or the pages turning.
miss_mesmerized More than 1 year ago
The murder of a beloved teacher moves the whole city of Smithson in Australia. Rosalind Ryan is found dead in the waters of Sonny Lake after a stunning performance of her art class in their version of Romeo and Juliet. Gemma Woodstock and her partner Felix take over the investigation even though Gemma has known Rosalind for her whole life. But her superior doesn’t know that she not only knew the beautiful young woman, but that that there is much more that links the two. The investigation leads to nothing, nobody can provide any useful information, neither her family not her colleagues really seem to have a motive. Yet, somebody must have hated her so much that he killed her. Sarah Bailey’s debut thriller “The Dark Lake” has an interesting setting. You hardly ever come across an Australian small town where everybody knows everybody and where all the characters have some kind of old common memories and histories. The most striking moment was for me, however, when everybody was complaining about the hot temperatures on Christmas – quite uncommon for most European or North-American novels. Well, things are different down-under, but the concept of a good thriller is the same, and “The Dark Lake” has much to offer in that respect. The case is highly complicated and for a very long time I didn’t actually have the slightest clue of what was going on. The author has masterly crafted her plot and it takes some time until a lot of dub-plots suddenly make sense. The protagonist Gem is also quite interesting, she is not only the policewoman, but also a mother of a young boy and doubting her relationship with the kid’s father. An affair with her partner doesn’t make things easier – but that’s just how life is. She is somehow typically female, she follows her intuition and she has a different way of approaching suspects and of observing places. I really appreciated this different point of view in the investigation. Even though much becomes clear when you come to the end of the novel, a downside was for me Gem’s private life in the present and the past. It was just a bit too much and slowed down the pace, even though it made perfectly sense for the story to tell it all.
SmithFamilyinEngland2 More than 1 year ago
When Lisa Gardner is prepared to endorse a debut book then you know it's going to be a very good one. "The Dark Lake" by new author Sarah Bailey is an enjoyable, addictive and well written suspenseful thriller that contains all the required elements to be a successful bestseller. When beautiful Smithson High School teacher Rosalind Ryan is found strangled in Sonny Lake surrounded by roses, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is allocated the investigation. However, Gemma remembers Rosalind from school. Can she stay objective when memories, good and bad, start resurfacing and her then relationship with Jacob becomes the forefront of her thoughts. Told in alternating timelines I liked how we followed the investigation in the present and then Gemma's life when she was young at the high school with Rosalind. I found this a compelling slow burner, very much character focused but with a truly interesting and intriguing storyline that I was desperate to find out who murdered Rosalind. I was pleasantly surprised at the ending which fit perfect and came together seamlessly. I would recommend this book to crime and thriller readers of all ages and I'd happily read more by this author again, I like her writing style and found the whole book an enjoyable read. 4.5 stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it! Eerie and well plotted but definitely strong from a character perspective.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dark, twisty and fun! A great read that I will be recommending to fans of Tana French and Gillian Flynn.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Set in Australia, this murder mystery was so dark eery it was perfect for a fall weekend. Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is a detective in the small town where she grew up, so when a murder happens she is close to the victim as they grew up there also. As the story progresses the reader realizes how close she really is and questions keep popping up . . . I love a who dun it and I love when they are a little on the creepy side! I loved how Sarah Bailey paced the book. I loved how she spaced out the bits of information and they were each timed perfectly just when I felt like I knew it all, she threw out more!
4840318 More than 1 year ago
While I am typically not one for police centric mysteries, Dark Lake was done very well. I think what I enjoyed most about it is that while the premise of the book is centered around solving a murder, Bailey doesn’t dive too deep into the police procedurals that tend to bore me. Additionally, kudos to Bailey to staying away from the cliché cop who is drinking themselves into a stupor and jeopardizing their job. With that being said, well Gemma, see Gemma’s got issues. Not just issues, the girl has some serious baggage. But Bailey tells the story in such a way that I didn’t get annoyed with Gemma (although there were times when a slap across the face would have been appropriate). I usually find myself immersed in serious eye rolls when I have to read about the alcoholic cop who continually makes stupid mistakes. I really enjoyed the character development as well as how the past and present weaved together to solve the murder of Rose. Not to mention that I was pleasantly surprised that the author was able to keep me guessing and I was not able to guess who killed Rose. This is always a nice treat because I read so many books in this genre that I can usually figure it out. Although this is the first book in a series, I will probably not continue to read about Gemma as I am not the biggest fan of police driven books, especially those in a series. However, if this is your thing (aka Alex Cross or Kay Scarpetta) then this book is for you! Gemma Woodstock is one cop to watch and I think you will enjoy her character development.
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey is the first book in A Gemma Woodstock Mystery series. Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock lives and works in Smithson, Australia. Gemma receives a call regarding the strangulation death of Rosalind Ryan. She was found by a jogger floating in Sonny Lake with red roses surrounding her body. Gemma went to school with Rosalind and were once friends (as well as rivals). Rosalind had recently returned to town to teach drama at Smithson Secondary College. Rosalind was a woman who spoke her mind and recently put on an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet (she was quite insistent about it). Gemma starts to dig into Rosalind’s life. Despite her popularity, Rosalind was something of an enigma. Why had Rosalind quit her job in Sydney and returned to Smithson? Gemma is determined to track down the killer despite the threats to her own life and that of her son’s. Will Gemma find the killer, or will she end up the next victim? The Dark Lake had an extremely dislikeable main character. You know you do not like a character when you keep hoping the killer will do her in. Gemma’s personal life was a mess and it spilled over into her work. She is living with one man (father of her son) while having an affair with another man. There are numerous sex scenes and it seems to be all Gemma can think about (it was obsessive). Gemma came across as unstable. I do want to mention that the book does contain foul language (a pet peeve of mine). I found there to be a lack of action and suspense. The mystery comes across as complex, but the solution is obvious. The book seemed long and drawn out (lacking in suspense and action). The same details kept being repeated. The focus of The Dark Lake was on Gemma and her messed up life instead of Rosalind’s murder. The book had potential. It just needed a major rewrite and severe editing.
Fredreeca2001 More than 1 year ago
Gemma is a detective on the murder case of an old high school acquaintance. This leads her down the trail of her past. This book just did not do it for me. The story is just ok. It’s a little long and round about. To be honest, I started skimming toward the end. Lots of junk in this book. For instance, there are several chapters on whether Gemma knew the victim more than she should. She is from a rural town…of course she knew the victim. Also, whether Gemma is going to have another baby. Who cares…related to the murder..NO! To say I disliked Gemma is an understatement. She is very selfish, secretive and she is having a affair with her partner. It is very difficult to enjoy a book when the lead character is as unappealing as Gemma. I don’t think I found anything about her to like. I will be honest, I thought this book would never end. I hate to write bad reviews. I do not want to damage the author’s hard work based on my opinion and it is just MY OPINION. I received this novel from Netgalley for a honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rarely have I read a book with such engaging characters and storyline. The author managed to capture the mood and mystery of murder in a small Australian town entrenched in the unrelenting heat of winter. Highly recommended as a novel to lose yourself in and enjoy.
Dana_W More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. Five stars for suspense and sheer page turning awesome. There's a reason this is on the B&N We Recommend list this year. If you love a good thriller, grab this one now! Buy Now
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
She was found in the water, facedown, roses surrounded her. She was a teacher, a popular one, one that had returned to her hometown to teach in the school that she once attended. Rosalind was just as private as an adult, as she was as a child. Sergeant Woodstock has had her share of loses but things are looking up now. There are three men in her life: her young son Ben, her son’s father Scott and her partner, Felix. Felix and Woodstock have more than a working relationship, their private relationship is what keeps Woodstock moving forward. Woodstock is assigned the Rosalind’s case. Rosalind is a girl that Woodstock knew and admired from a distance in high school. There doesn’t seem to be any leads and they are getting nowhere. It becomes a vicious circle. When the killer starts to infringe on Woodstock and her family, the novel begins to intensify. What is it with individuals who live in small towns? Their secrets never stay silent. I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Twink More than 1 year ago
3.5 The Dark Lake is Australian author Sarah Bailey's debut novel. DS Gemma Woodstock is the lead investigator in a rural Aussie town. When a woman is found dead in a local lake, Gemma recognizes her from their high school days. But she downplays this connection. Why? "It's amazing what you can keep buried when you want to." The dead woman is an enigma - her students adored her and her colleagues admired her. But as the investigation continues, Gemma discovers that no one really 'knows' Rosalind, including her own family. Bailey sets up the reader with not one, but two mysteries - who killed Rosanind and what event occurred in Gemma's past that she is so determined to keep hidden. Gemma was an interesting lead character. She's smart and driven to find answers. But. She's also playing a dangerous game with her personal life. I didn't agree with the choices she was making and the actions she took to pursue that choice. I can't say that I liked her partner Felix either. I was intrigued by Rosalind. We only get to 'know' her from other's memories and observations though. I would have like a peek into her life from her own point of view. Bailey's use of the 'then and now' technique gives the reader small glimpses into Gemma's past and then flips back to the present. The book is equally divided into a search for the killer and a character driven exploration of Gemma and her life. Bailey gives us lots of options and characters to choose from for the closing 'whodunit' and the final answer was clever. I did find the reveal of Gemma's secret to be a bit of a letdown and the resolution she finds in her personal life in the final pages to be somewhat cliched. The book weighs in at 400+ pages. I feel this could have been tightened up a bit, as Gemma's dilemma became somewhat repetitive after awhile and I found my interest slipping. I think this may be the first in a series. If so, I would be curious to see where Bailey next takes her character. I think The Dark Lake is a solid debut, but the publisher's comparisons to Tana French and Paula Hawkins may be a bit ambitious at this stage of Bailey's career. I think I'm in the minority on this one, so please weigh in if you've read it already.
whatsbetterthanbooks More than 1 year ago
Menacing, unsettling, and intense! In this debut novel, The Dark Lake, Bailey transports us to Smithson, Australia a small town where gossip and deception run rampant, emotions run high, and solving the murder of the beloved local high school teacher may unearth more skeletons in the closet than anyone could have imagined. The prose is dark and eerie. The characters, including the scarred Det. Sgt. Gemma Woodstock, are flawed, complicated, and self-involved. And the plot, using a past/present, back-and-forth style is a suspenseful thrill ride filled with familial drama, jealousy, obsession, grief, revenge, infidelity, secrets, and murder. The Dark Lake is truly a well-written, gritty, absorbing story that highlights that rage and resentment fostered over many years can have devastating consequences.
Momma_Becky More than 1 year ago
Let me start by saying that Bailey is quite talented and writes well, but about half way through this tale, I felt like the author didn't know when to turn it off. The story starts off good and pulled me in effectively, but shortly thereafter, it began to fizzle. I found the main character, Gemma, completely unlikable and was never able to warm up to her as she sets about solving the murder of her high-school rival. I've read many flawed characters that were lovable in spite of their flaws. Not so with this one. I could've gotten past that, but the story gets so bogged down with too many details that it becomes rather boring at times. It was plain to see where the author was leading the reader from a fairly early point, making it entirely too easy to solve this mystery, which takes away from the mystery and suspense of the book. Overall, it was way too long and filled with more teenage angst than necessary, in my opinion, especially considering how easy it was to figure out. The story did show promise and the author is gifted, but sometimes less is more.
MaraBlaise More than 1 year ago
I was thrilled to discover that this new crime series is set in Australia. I read The Dry by Jane Harper and loved it and after that did I want to read more crime novels from Australia. The Dark Lake is the story about a woman that is found dead in the lake, and for Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is this a case that will become very personal. Since she grew up in the town did she, of course, know Rosalind Ryan who was the same age as her and who came back to town a few years before. But, it's more than that. Gemma has a connection to Rosalind, but that is something she is desperate to hide. This is the kind of crime novel I love to read, with an interesting case and a DS that gets obsessed with solving the murder and at the same time having a troublesome home life not to mention a connection to the victim. And, there are secrets in the rural town with everyone seeming to have something to hide. And, sometimes cases can get too close to home. The Dark Lake is the first book in the Gemma Woodstock series, something that I was very glad to learn. I loved Gemma's messy home life and her affair with a colleague that threatens her life with Scott and their son Ben. Gemma is trying to balance her personal life and at the same time solving a murder. Not the easiest thing to do for her. I liked this book and I will definitely read the next book in the series!