Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock grew up in the small town of Smithson and joined the police force to give her life some solidity. Amongst the routine, mundane work are the horrific cases like the one where she found the ‘desperate, beaten-down young woman who had decided it would be better to drown her baby son in the bath and then slit her wrists as she held his dead body, rather than spend another night in fear of her violent ex-boyfriend’.
Then twenty-eight-year-old Rosalind Ryan, a teacher at the local school, is found dead in the lake, bashed and strangled, with possible sexual assault. Described as passionate, dedicated and determined, she is somewhat of a mystery to all, including Gemma, who is investigating the case, and also went to school with her years back.
Many are implicated – Rose’s family, her colleagues and students. There seems to be motive everywhere, but nothing sticks, much to the frustration of the police. Details are revealed that don’t seem to add up.
Gemma’s personal life is also in turmoil as her relationship with her husband Scott is strained and she is having an affair with her partner Detective Sergeant Felix McMinnon. She stays with Scott for their son, Ben, and he with his wife and three daughters. Gemma continues to feel the loss of her high-school sweetheart, Jacob, and her mother who died when she was a teenager. She is also personally connected to Rose, and possibly her death.
The novel shows the difficulty of policing in a small town where everyone know everything about the rest of the community, particularly for a woman, and the reasons why Gemma chose the force as a career. It looks at complicated relationships and the choices we make.
This is another great Australian crime/mystery/drama set in a small country town. If you liked Jane Harper’s The Dry, Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident, Holly Throsby’s Goodwood or J.M. Peace’s The Twisted Knot, give this a try.