The first novel from this Australian author. It’s a murder mystery set in the fictional location of Smithson, a small town in rural NSW. A young female teacher has been found dead on the shore of the town’s lake the night after a successful school production of a version of Romeo and Juliet which the teacher wrote and directed.
Most of the novel is told from the first-person point of view of Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock, but there are a couple of interesting interleaved chapters, each told from the third-person point of view of other characters. Quite an interesting technique, which works pretty well.
Gemma Woodstock may be the most psychologically fraught detective I’ve encountered in fiction. She has a very complicated personal life, and also has a close past connection with the victim, Rosalind Ryan, with whom she went to school—a mixture of teenage infatuation, envy and rivalry. She lies to her boss that she barely knew the victim and so can be impartial in her investigation. The truth, as we discover, is that their shared past is a crucial factor in what has happened to Rosalind.
It’s a gripping story, well-told. My only quibble is that it seems very unlikely that a small rural town in Australia would have such a well-staffed police department. The town is so small that the inhabitants have to travel to a neighbouring, larger, town to visit the cinema; yet it boasts a police department with at least four detectives. In reality I suspect they would be lucky to have a single cop in the place.
There’s a sequel to The Dark Lake already out, Into the Night, set in Melbourne. I’ll certainly be looking out for it.