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The Dark Lake

(Gemma Woodstock #1)

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  6,795 ratings  ·  1,015 reviews
In a suspense thriller to rival Paula Hawkins and Tana French, a detective with secrets of her own hunts the killer of a woman who was the glamorous star of their high school.

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 Woods
Paperback, 440 pages
Published June 1st 2017 by Allen & Unwin (first published May 24th 2017)
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George It's a stylistic choice, not quite like writing first or third person, but a choice. It happens to be more common in French, though certainly not unkn…moreIt's a stylistic choice, not quite like writing first or third person, but a choice. It happens to be more common in French, though certainly not unknown in English.

As "TheVet" says in Yahoo Answers at "Why Would You Write In The Present Tense?": "it involves the reader almost immediately when done properly. It also allows verbs to exist in their most active state which pumps up the level of the writing". S/He says that for teaching writing, it eliminates using the passive voice, which can be a deadening trap, and forces the writer to think in active voice.

And TheVet points out that it's been used for centuries, through Bierce, Faulkner, Hemingway, and on through modernism, post-modernism, and whatever's going on now. As you've noticed.

That URL is

I find it strange when people--not just you--find novels written in present tense to be difficult, pretentious, or even so distasteful that you can't read them. TheVet thinks you're in a minority. Will Pasto at thinks the opposite.

Note that this answer is almost entirely in the present tense.(less)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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 ·  6,795 ratings  ·  1,015 reviews

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Chelsea Humphrey

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

I know my rating doesn't fully convey it, but I really did think this was a solid debut. As an avid reader of mysteries and crime fiction, it's getting insanely difficult to blow me away in this genre, which makes it harder to find those 5 star poppers that are memorable long term. The Dark Lake was a complex story, as there was a plot driven case pertaining to thi
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads

Psychological thriller about a cop investigating the murder of her high school rival.

When 28 year old English teacher Rosalind (Rose) is found dead, the people of the small Australian town of Smithson are in shock. Why would someone kill beautiful Rose? She is the girl who seemed to have it all: beauty, money, and success. Rose had the type of charisma where she was able to compel the women around her to want to be like her, and the men to fall in love with her. While some fell hard for Rose
Susanne  Strong
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
4 Stars.

Rosalind Ryan is dead. Beautiful, popular, enigmatic, Rosalind Ryan: the High School English Teacher at Smithson, just outside of Sydney. Former Drama Queen and the most popular girl in her High School Class. Rosalind was found in a lake surrounded, by roses. The investigating officer? Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock. They knew each other once. They were class mates, at Smithson High School.

Gemma Woodstock has quite the time trying to figure out who was responsible for Rosalind Ryan’
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a dark and atmospheric psychological crime debut from Australian Sarah Bailey, with DS Gemma Woodstock, set in the Aussie small town of Smithson, in New South Wales. It's a place where everyone knows everyone, yet is still full of secrets that come to be slowly revealed. The town is shocked when 28 year old Rosalind Ryan, a drama teacher, is discovered strangled in the lake, with roses surrounding her. Gemma is the main homicide detective, aided by her police partner, Felix. She is a mot ...more
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grgiveaways
this a a fine debut mystery novel, and a good one to read during these long heatwave days of summer, but claiming it is “a suspense thriller to rival tana french” is bananas. buh. nan. uhs. 

this is a satisfying leisure read. it held my interest, i was curious about where it was heading and how the storylines would converge and and i never wanted to abandon it out of boredom, but i wouldn’t say i was deeply invested in it, either. the mystery itself is well-conceived, but the characters aren’t dy
Dec 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5000-books
One of those books where I go down the middle.

I liked:
* the mystery of Rose's death and the surrounding events.
* the actual police work and gathering of clues.
* the characterisation. Sarah Bailey writes characters and dialogue well.

I did not like:
* Gemma. At all.
* the endless examination of Gemma's feelings and emotions.
* the strange and incomplete ending.

Three stars because I did like the story but I probably don't like Gemma enough to want to read anymore about her.
Carol (Bookaria)
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
These are the type of mysteries I enjoy reading!

An enigmatic, young high-school teacher is found dead in a lake in a small town in Australia. The case is assigned to Detective Gemma Woodstock who attended high school with the victim and who has an entangled past with her. This is where the story begins and slowly what happened is revealed.

This psychological thriller is narrated -mainly- from the point of view of Gemma but also in smaller degrees from other characters. Gemma is a flawed human w
Miriam Smith
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: readers-first
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 s
This was such a good, well written book for a debut. Set in a small country town, where everyone knows everyone and their past histories, there are still long kept secrets hidden away. When a beautiful young drama teacher, Rosalind Ryan is found dead in the lake behind the high school, DS Gemma Woodstock must face up to her own past and her history with the dead woman.

Gemma's personal life is a bit of a mess, she hasn't emotionally comitteed to her partner Scott, doesn't spend enough time with t

4.5 stars

First-off, I can’t believe this is a debut novel. It fulfills all my criteria for a great book: exquisite writing, fully-developed characters, and a fleshed out, well-paced plot. Sarah Bailey’s The Dark Lake is simply fantastic. So good that I can say with confidence that we might be experiencing the beginning work of Australia’s equivalent to Tana French or Gillian Flynn. An author who will continue to produce increasingly masterful narratives for years to come.

“So much happened that s
Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-books
Sarah Bailey makes a dramatic entry into the Australian crime fiction genre, with her debut novel, The Dark Lake. I was impressed by the amount of positive endorsement this book has received and encouraged my resolve to select The Dark Lake to read.

In the sleepy country town of Smithson not a great deal happens. When local teacher Rosalind Ryan is found dead floating in the waters of a local lake, surrounded by red roses, tensions in the small town run high.
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
3.75 stars, rounded up

This mystery novel, the first in a new Australian series featuring Gemma Woodstock, is a combination of mystery/police procedural and character study. The author has created a flawed and complex character in Gemma, the lead homicide detective. The tone of the book was dark and gritty and the hot Australian Christmas season added to the atmosphere.

The case is an interesting one. A childhood classmate of Gemma’s, Rosalind Ryan, a local high school teacher, is found dead in th
Veronica ⭐️
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Dark Lake is the debut novel of Australian author Sarah Bailey.

Gemma Woodstock is a Detective Sergeant in the small rural town of Smithson. One of the local teachers, who also happens to be an old classmate of Gemma’s, is murdered and the ensuing investigation causes Gemma’s past to come crashing back to haunt her.

I can’t say I liked Gemma and some may question her morals but I didn’t dislike her. I was certainly intrigued to find out what made her tick. She was complex, complicated, obsessi
Theresa Alan
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
The writing of this mystery/detective story is excellent, but in some ways I think it’s a better women’s fiction novel than a mystery.

One of the lead detectives on the case is twenty-eight-year-old Gemma Woodstock. The victim went to her high school—the mysterious and beautiful Rosalind Ryan, who came back to the small town of Smithson to be a teacher. It’s not surprising that Gemma knew her—she knows most of the people in Smithson.

Author Sarah Bailey did an excellent job creating a complex cha
Rachel Hall
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Dark Lake marks an impressively atmospheric first foray into the crime fiction market for new Australian voice, Sarah Bailey. Part police procedural and part character study, the result is an absorbing exploration of the secrets hidden within the small New South Wales town of Smithson. Imbued with a sense of place that takes its readers to the heart of a rural community sweltering in the build up to Christmas that is forced to turn the spotlight on itself in a search for answers. Alongside s ...more
Trish at Between My Lines
This review was originally posted on Between My Lines

Heads up to all fans of police procedural thrillers, Sarah Bailey is the new author in town, and she is one to watch!  I saw The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey by Instagram a few times, and it caught my eye with its intruguing tagline "A town of secrets waiting to explode".  So I snapped it up when I saw it in my library audiobook app.

My Thoughts on The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

You never know what to expect when you dive into a début novel.  
Rosalind Ryan, a popular yet mysterious teacher, is found dead by local the lake. She's been murdered, her body left floating with red roses surrounding her. Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock and her partner, Felix, are called in to investigate Rosalind's case. Nothing about Rosalind adds up--everyone seemed to like her, but no one really knew her. She lived in a cheap apartment, but clearly had expensive taste in wine and makeup. She was the youngest of four, with three brothers, one of with w ...more
Bill Kupersmith
Sep 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Especially for English-speaking readers, we now have more national literatures than we have stories, so that with a few changes in local colour & weather, it doesn’t matter very much whether we’re reading Australian literature, Canadian literature, or (in translation) Scandinavian literature. Sarah Bailey’s The Dark Lake is set in NSW @ Christmastime, but except for the characters sweltering in holiday party Santa costumes whilst threatened by bush fires, the story could have as easily taken pla ...more
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
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' ...more
I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of this novel through a Goodreads Giveaway.

This is an Australian crime novel set in a small town in New South Wales during a particularly trying summer. As with any small town, everyone knows everyone, though there are plenty of secrets. The murder of a local girl forces everyone's business under the microscope, and this novel is as much about those secrets as it is about solving the mystery of who killed Rosalind Ryan.

I have to be completely honest
Liz Barnsley
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved The Dark Lake – One of those brilliantly layered human drama’s that are within the psychological thriller genre. Sarah Bailey has created some memorable and relatable characters who will stay with me – especially the victim Rosalind who even after resolution will linger in your head and make you wonder.

Gemma as a main protagonist is, to be fair, divisive. Haunted by memories of a past she can’t fix, living in a family situation she is not sure of and involved in a slightly obsessi
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A rural community rocked by a dark murder mystery and a detective with an even darker secret threatens to turn Detective Gemma Woodstock's life upside down.

When local beauty, Rosalind Ryan is found face down surrounded by roses in a lake, Gemma, a former classmate of Rosalind's and now a member of the police force is called in to lead the investigation.

The Dark Lake is layered with complexity through protagonist Gemma as she steadily unravels the mystery surrounding the murder while simultaneo
Kylie H
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama, crime
I think that I am pleased I read the third book in this series first, so had a bit more empathy for Gemma the main character, than if I had read this first.
Gemma is not a very likeable character/detective and I think that is because she is so full of self loathing. She seems hellbent on making those around her suffer and cannot seem to stop herself doing it.
The book is centred on the murder of young teacher in a regional country town. Gemma is one of the investigating officers and knows Rosalind
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: homelibrary
When the story was focused on the murder and investigation, it was a four star read. But unfortunately, a lot of the book was taken up with the personal life of the lead character, and honestly, she annoyed the hell out of me. For a detective investigating a brutal murder in her small town, she worried more about the affair she was having than trying to find a killer. Even when something happened to her personally *spoilers* she was focused more on her lover. Drove me nuts with her " he loves hi ...more
It took me longer than expected to finish this novel, mostly because I was busy.

The Dark Lake is a good debut novel. A beautiful, young teacher is found dead close to the local highschool. The main police investigator is a former school mate of hers - Gemma Woods - who's a detective at only twenty- eight years old.

I liked that the main character was an imperfect police woman, with some dirty laundry in the closet. Unfortunately, despite her being the narrator, I never really warmed up to her.
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love Gemma Woodstock and her 262828372 issues.

Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
To much babble for my liking.
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

3-3.5 stars

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 th
Alicia Gard
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great mystery, set in Australia. The female protagonist both broke my heart in ways and had me rooting for her. I did not guess who the killer was despite my confidence in my theory- which I appreciate! Hoping for book #2 by this talented author to arrive sooner rather than later.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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

Other books in the series

Gemma Woodstock (3 books)
  • Into the Night (Gemma Woodstock, #2)
  • Where the Dead Go

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