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.