Featured pic. Author Sarah Bailey.

These violent delights have violent ends says Shakespeare in Romeo & Juliet.

He loved a good warning to set the scene. Perhaps these days he’d be writing crime fiction sensations like THE DARK LAKE, the debut novel from Melbourne based author, Sarah Bailey.

Bailey has harnessed her tale of regional town homicide to the work horse of Shakespeare, and of Romeo & Juliet in particular, complete with teenage suicide, parental displeasure, and a victim called Rosalind.

When the body of high school drama teacher, Rosalind Ryan, is found in the lake the morning after the triumphant opening night of her student’s production of Romeo & Juliet, ancient grudge breaks to new mutiny, as local cop, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock, uncovers a ‘storm’ of Shakespeare like dimension.

Woodstock was a contemporary of Ryan and vied for the attention and affections of the same boy at school. That boy’s much younger brother is now Ryan’s star student, cast as Romeo in her brash, bold and brilliant re imagining of the classic tale of star crossed lovers.

There is a hint that the student teacher boundary was over-stepped and that the arc of the play may have spilled out into reality. Illicit love is mirrored in Woodstock’s relationship with her investigating partner in the police, Felix McKinnon. Both officers have families and are conducting a fevered clandestine affair.

As Woodstock sifts through the facts and fictions, the suspects and subterfuge of the case, she finds herself dredging the depths of memory and the past, and so the murder scene, the dark lake, becomes a metaphor for her own murky actions back when she and the victim were competitors in love.

From forth the fatal loins of adolescent jealousy, events are set in motion whose consequences clear the fearful passage of death-marked love.

Keen and observant readers of crime fiction will probably guess, long before the final page, the culpability of the culprit, the guilty party never really disguised or obfuscated.
The pleasure is in the procedural and the characters and the sense of place.

The fictional town of Smithson sounds as if it was named for ordinariness, but it is described and populated in ways that are anything but ordinary.

Bailey has created a highly plausible, humanly flawed heroine in Gemma Woodstock, a compelling mix of brave, vulnerable, ambitious and torn.

The character of Jonesy, the town police chief, her superior and mentor, is also nicely drawn, snatched from the claws of cliché by deft touches of irony and a prescient propriety.

Should there be a sequel, I hope Jonesy is still running the show with his no bullshit avuncularism.

There’s nothing like¬†cold blooded murder to cosy up to in warm bedded surrounds

THE DARK LAKE by Sarah Bailey is published by Allen & Unwin.