Title: Into the Night
Author: Sarah Bailey
Published: May 23rd 2018
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Australian, Crime, Mystery
Rating: 4.5 stars
Sarah Bailey’s acclaimed debut novel The Dark Lake was a bestseller around the world and Bailey’s taut and suspenseful storytelling earned her fitting comparisons with Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins.
Into the Night is her stunning new crime novel featuring the troubled and brilliant Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock. This time Gemma finds herself lost and alone in the city, broken-hearted by the decisions she’s had to make. Her new workplace is a minefield and the partner she has been assigned is uncommunicative and often hostile. When a homeless man is murdered and Gemma is put on the case, she can’t help feeling a connection with the victim and the lonely and isolated life he led despite being in the middle of a bustling city.
Then a movie star is killed in bizarre circumstances on the set of a major film shoot, and Gemma and her partner Detective Sergeant Nick Fleet have to put aside their differences to unravel the mysteries surrounding the actor’s life and death. Who could commit such a brazen crime and who stands to profit from it? Far too many people, she soon discovers – and none of them can be trusted. But it’s when Gemma realises that she also can’t trust the people closest to her that her world starts closing in…
Riveting suspense, incisive writing and a fascinating cast of characters make this an utterly addictive crime thriller and a stunning follow-up to The Dark Lake.
I noted in October of last year that I was keen to hear from Sarah Bailey, the author of The Dark Lake, very soon. It seems my wish has been granted and less than a year later we have a second novel from Bailey. Into the Night is the impressive follow up to Bailey’s debut novel. If you are a fan of quintessential Australian crime fiction, you must read Into the Night and its predecessor, The Dark Lake.
Detective Gemma Woodstock returns, following on from the events that occurred in The Dark Lake, the first novel penned by Sarah Bailey. We soon learn Gemma has made the move from the regional town of Smithson, to the city of Melbourne. She is damaged and flawed, but is determined to make it in the big smoke. However, not only is her personal life back home in Smithson a mess, her new life in Melbourne isn’t faring too much better either. With a difficult partner, a boss who keeps his staff at arm’s length and a whole a new team to negotiate, Gemma’s new workplace is proving hard to crack. Gemma’s workload changes when she is assigned to a high profile case involving a celebrity who has been killed in an odd set of circumstances. Gemma must put aside her mixed feelings for her partner, Detective Fleet aside, in order to put this actor’s case to rest. In the process of solving this baffling case, Gemma faces the realisation that those she thought she could trust may have betrayed her.
In terms of quality Australian crime thrillers and police procedural focussed novels, Sarah Bailey is a commanding force. I witnessed the greatness of Sarah Bailey’s writing when I read her debut novel, The Dark Lake late last year. It easily earned a place in my top reads of 2017 and I can now confirm that Into the Night will be sure to secure a spot in my top reads of 2018. Self doubt and the pressure to follow up on a hugely successful first novel can be to the detriment of writers, however, Sarah Bailey shows us that she is a force to be reckoned with in the Australian crime field. Watch out Jane Harper!
Although I really loved the small town regional setting of Smithson in Bailey’s first book, I think it was an astute move to transfer the action of this second novel to the city. It shows reader the natural progression, as well as character growth of the main protagonist, Detective Gemma Woodstock. The small town feeling is only mentioned in glimpses, when Gemma makes a return visit home and that’s when we see some familiar faces. However, the bulk of the novel is set in the city of Melbourne. This is an Australian city I am yet to visit. Bailey’s descriptive prose ensures that my inexperience is brushed aside. The city comes to life before your eyes. It is both murky and mysterious. Bailey draws our attention to the dark undercurrents that lurk beneath the surface of this vibrant city. This area of the novel is incredibly rich in detail, so all you can do is sit back and immerse yourself in Bailey’s prose.
What impressed me about this second offering from Bailey was the crime aspect itself. Bailey highlights the common police practices and procedural elements in dealing with an unsolved murder case. It is immersive and enlightening. I really enjoyed the workplace issues that Gemma contends with. Gemma clearly has some difficulties in establishing a solid working partnership with Detective Fleet, along with her need to seek approval from her boss, who is deliberately distancing himself from his team. As the newbie on the block, Gemma must also work hard to establish her position in the team. In terms of the murder mystery itself, it was interesting to see how different cases command polarising resources and priority levels. The intricacies of each of the cases presented in this novel are great to unpack.
Onto Gemma herself, Into the Night would not be same if it didn’t have Gemma at the helm. Like the first book, Gemma continues to show us her flaws, her inconsistencies, her questionable choices and vulnerabilities. Bailey is so in tune with her lead, that she seems to live and breathe all aspects of her primary protagonist. Into the Night takes Gemma to another level, it is a story that pits Gemma against new challenges, fresh experiences and we get to see her in yet another light. I really appreciated this aspect of the novel and it shows us just how devoted Bailey is to her characterisation. On the secondary character front, I thought Bailey did a very good job in her interactions and dialogue between Gemma and her side cast. The periphery characters such as Fleet, Josh, Scott and Ben are all vital to the novel. This also applies to the suspects in the cases Woodstock is working to solve.
Bailey manages to perform that careful balancing act between a fresh new crime case to solve, with enough follow on to satisfy readers keen to learn more about the complicated lead, Gemma Woodstock. Into the Night is another stand-out novel from Sarah Bailey, an author who has captivated me yet again. I’m definitely coming back for third helping of anything Bailey chooses to serve up next!
Into the Night by Sarah Bailey was published on 23rd May 2018 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Into the Night, Sarah Bailey visit here.
*I wish to thank Allen & Unwin for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Into the Night is book #68 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge