Well-paced de­but thriller

Havelock North Village Press - - News - Re­view by JU­DITH McKIN­NON, Hast­ings District Li­braries

There’s noth­ing like a small Aus­tralian town in high sum­mer to cre­ate a taut set­ting for mur­der. The Dark Lake of the ti­tle is Sonny Lake, a tran­quil spot for walk­ers and jog­gers with a playground at one end for fam­i­lies. When the body of a young woman is found in the wa­ter, shock­waves rip­ple through the small com­mu­nity of Smith­son, where ev­ery­body knows ev­ery­body. Cer­tainly ev­ery­one knew the vic­tim, Ros­alind Ryan, the un­usu­ally beau­ti­ful young drama teacher at the high school.

De­tec­tive Sergeant Gemma Wood­stock knew Ros­alind — they were in the same year at school. But Gemma is wary of telling her boss, Jonesy, about what she re­mem­bers of Ros­alind or she could be dropped from the case. It is for­tu­nate Gemma’s so good at her job that Jonesy doesn’t ask too many ques­tions.

Ros­alind is warmly re­mem­bered for her gifted teach­ing, and her bril­liant rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of Romeo and Juliet, with the open­ing night tak­ing place the night of her death. Although clues point to a sex crime, sug­ges­tions that Ros­alind had plenty of se­crets as well as a gift for ma­nip­u­lat­ing peo­ple throw more mo­tives into the mix.

The story is told largely from Gemma’s point of view and she’s a bit of a mess. She’s not in love with her boyfriend, Scott, the fa­ther of her child, but is in­volved in an af­fair with her part­ner, Felix. Like so many fic­tional de­tec­tives, she drinks too much, for­gets to eat and doesn’t get a lot of sleep. Mean­while the se­cret res­ur­rected by the death of Ros­alind con­tin­ues to plague her.

The Dark Lake is a de­but novel and the first in a promis­ing new se­ries fea­tur­ing Gemma Wood­stock. It is a well-paced thriller that crack­les with at­mos­phere. While the case hums along with in­ter­est­ing leads, snap­shots of the past add in­sight into Gemma’s trou­bled teen years. She’s a char­ac­ter full of flaws, but there’s plenty of scope to de­velop into an in­ter­est­ing de­tec­tive.

The Dark Lake is a wel­come ad­di­tion and will appeal to any­one who en­joyed Jane Harper’s The Dry or Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train.

For more visit www.hast­ingsli­braries.co.nz or ph 871-5000. Pub­lish­ers Book Expo Wed­nes­day, Novem­ber 14, Have­lock North Li­brary. Tick­ets avail­able now.

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