Set in Smithson NSW at the height of summer, a young teacher by the name of Rosalind Ryan has been found dead. Rosalind is a popular teacher at the school, and has been killed after the successful opening night of the school play Romeo and Juliet. Her students and teachers adore her and can't understand why anyone would want to harm her.
Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is assigned to the case, despite the fact she went to school with the victim. Gemma is a terrific Detective, however I just didn't like her. She is having an affair with her work partner Felix and if that's not enough, Felix is married with kids, so both characters are cheating on their spouses. I really hate that.
Gemma's inner reflections on her adulterous behaviour was irritating and I didn't like how she treated her spouse Scott. Gemma is incredibly self-absorbed and seemed more concerned with her own desire for Felix than solving the case or caring for her son Ben. I get the whole flawed character angle, but Gemma was too unlikeable for me.
The lake of the title features well throughout the novel and made for a refreshing Australian rural backdrop to the plot. The mystery of who killed Rosalind and left her in the lake covered in red roses was a good one and was closely tied up with Gemma's dark past. However my favourite parts of the novel were the inter-office goings on with Gemma, her boss and other personnel in the office. The Aussie setting and realistic interactions really resonated with me and I could easily see this on the big screen.
The Dark Lake was a solid debut and a smashing success when it was released in 2017. It also won several awards, including the 2018 Davitt Award for Best Crime Debut and the 2018 Ned Kelly award for Best First Crime. I missed the hype then and am only reading this now thanks to my local library.
It's always good to catch up on a much loved Australian novel and I have the next in the series Into the Night on my shelf to read in May. I'm really looking forward to it and crossing my fingers Gemma gets her act together in this one. I'd like to see more of her awesome detective work and less of her pursuing her own lustful desires at the expense of her family.
My rating = ***