Into the Night by Sarah Bailey

After the events of Sarah Bailey’s debut The Dark Lake left Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock unable to be the partner, mother and human that everyone in the regional town of Smithson needed her to be, a transfer to Melbourne seemed like the only option. There, in the anonymity of the city, Gemma can hide in plain sight. The white noise of the street outside her CBD apartment and the men who do not know her entire history are enough to drown out the insistent murmur of loss, as she misses her lifelong home and her beloved son.

When a homeless man is found murdered in a Carlton park, Gemma makes a promise that she won’t see his death neglected, but the very next day a violent murder in the middle of the city sees the entire world’s attention focused on her squad. During the filming of a scene in zombie film Death is Alive – a scene in which everyone is armed – the lead actor is stabbed to death. His family, girlfriend and best friend are all grieving, but none of them seem to be quite as honest as Gemma would like. Even taking into account his agent, dramatic co-stars, unpleasant director and an extensive and obsessed fanbase, there is a lot of suspicion, a barrage of impatient media, and senior police staff who want the case solved – now.

Gemma Woodstock is in many ways an unsympathetic character – she cannot help but make terrible life choices, even as she strives not to. Removing her unreliable self from her son’s life is both damaging and helpful, and the release she gets from a series of anonymous men is a balm to her soul, yet it’s still self-destructive, especially when she tentatively strikes up a new relationship with a lawyer who is more interested in her than she is used to. Gemma’s prickliness matches perfectly with a city alive on the page – one both recognisable and horrifying to local Readings customers who traipse the streets where blood is spattered in these pages. This is a gritty metropolitan police procedural that shows Bailey is only getting better.

Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also blogs about children’s books at