Published by Allen & Unwin
Published on the 5th August 2019
Book #3 in the Gemma Woodstock series
I received a copy of this book from Allen & Unwin publishers, this has not impacted my review.
Gemma Woodstock is attending the funeral of her ex-husband, Scott. It’s been a harrowing day and she’s doing the best she can to hold it together for herself and her son, Ben. When her friend Jonesy receives a call asking if he can assist on a case in Fairhaven, Gemma offers to go in his place stating she and Ben both need some space from Smithson. When Gemma arrives, she’s thrown into a double case, one a homicide and the other a missing fifteen year old girl. Nothing is adding up and she keeps getting thrown back into her past thoughts about a previous case to do with another missing girl that she failed to find in time. While navigating the tangled mystery that she finds herself in, she is also struggling internally with a myriad of different things. Will she be able to hold it together long enough to solve the case? Or will it become too much for her already exhausted mental state?
This is the first book that I’ve read in the Gemma Woodstock series by Sarah Bailey. I really wish I had have realised this so I could have started from the beginning, but it honestly didn’t take too much away from the story coming in part way through. There’s obviously issues that Gemma has which have carried over from the previous instalments and explain a few things about what she’s going through currently, but I didn’t find myself confused at all by past things brought up as they’re pretty well explained at the time. I almost feel like I could forego reading at least one of previous instalments as I feel like I got a brief yet in depth summary of the case and how it turned out in the end anyway.
Let’s start with the characters. All were very well written and are easily distinguishable between each other, though I got confused at one point because I totally forgot who Candy was and mistook her for another character with which she had no dealings, but that’s beside the point. I found it difficult to like Gemma at times. This may have been Bailey’s intention with this character as she is inherently flawed and therefore comes across as a much more real person than a detective sergeant who has no issues at all. I just found at times she made really stupid decisions and wasn’t dealing with life the way a normally adjusted adult would. Maybe this is because of the awful situation that she’s just experienced, in losing Scott? I don’t know, but it irked me a bit and at times I felt like slapping or shaking her to get her to think straight.
The story itself was SO well thought out. I really enjoyed the thrilling mystery that I found myself embroiled in, it had so many twists and turns I honestly had no idea where I was going to end up. We have the initial mystery of who killed the boyfriend and where has the missing girl gone and what’s happened to her, but then we also have bits of other mysteries thrown in as well. I did not work out who was responsible for the whole thing until the big reveal which is a big bonus in books like this that really hinge on that epic “holy shit, it was that person!?!?!” moment, for me anyway.
The book itself deals with a couple of heavy issues, but these aren’t really the forefront of the story itself. It deals with addiction, drug dealing and domestic abuse. There’s no descriptions of the domestic abuse happening, but the aftermath is spoken about a few times. So if you struggle a bit with these things, maybe decide if this is a best book for you, even though, as I said these issues aren’t the main crux of the story and are more of a side thing.
I found myself absolutely glued to the pages and I can honestly say that it is a major page turner. The chapters are short and most of them end with you going “Damn it, I really need to know what happens next.” Cue reading into the wee hours of the morning wondering why I’m tired the next day “One more chapter, then I’ll stop, I promise”.
If you find yourself in the market for a great suspenseful thriller mystery set in Australia, I definitely recommend this one. Maybe start from the beginning though so you get the full understanding of the on going story and what’s happening with Gemma, as I said earlier, I kinda wish I realised this was part of a series. If you do wish to read this as a standalone, I can recommend that as well, as having not read the previous instalments didn’t detract from this story at all. Keep in mind though, if you read this one first, one of the other books will possibly be ruined for you.