FRIDAY FORECAST: BODY OF LIES by Sarah Bailey
You are going to have wait a bit longer for this one, but it is well worth it.
Sarah Bailey’s Body Of Lies (Allen & Unwin), due out 27 February 2024, is the fourth novel in her acclaimed series about DS Gemma Woodstock, and is an early contender for one of the best crime novels of 2024.
Sarah’s Gemma Woodstock series started in 2017 with The Dark Lake, which centred on the murder of an old schoolfriend of Gemma’s in her hometown of Smithson in rural New South Wales. It won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction and was followed by Into The Night in 2018, in which Gemma was seconded to a detective role in Melbourne and becomes involved with the murder of a movie star. The 2019 book, Where The Dead Go, opened with Gemma back in Smithson, but soon accepting a temporary posting, with her son, to a small town on the New South Wales north coast to escape a personal trauma, and to help with the investigation into a missing fifteen-year-old girl. It was a great read and I thought it was the strongest book in the series to that point: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/where-the-dead-go-by-sarah-bailey-allen-unwin-29-99-due-out-5-august/
Throughout the series, Gemma’s evolving personal life has played an important part in the stories, but without overwhelming the murder mystery at the core of each book. This is again the case in Body Of Lies, which is set about a year after Where The Dead Go. It opens with Gemma on maternity leave and back in Smithson. At loose ends, and undecided about her future, she is happy enough to be dragged back into work to help with an unexpected increase in workload following the bizarre disappearance of an unidentified corpse from the local hospital, and the subsequent murder of a senior figure in the town.
Encouraged by her journalist friend Candy Fyfe, Gemma is intent on discovering the identity of the dead woman and the relevance of an off-the-grid sanctuary to the disappearance. As her investigation continues she uncovers some unpleasant secrets about the people she thought she knew best.
Body Of Lies is a very accomplished novel. Well written and tightly plotted, the book moves at a good pace, and produces a couple of dazzling surprises along the way to the very taut climax. Gemma’s personal dilemmas are central to the story, and they help to generate some good moments of suspense and really add to the various mysteries. The plotting is clever and Sarah manages to second guess the reader on several occasions, including adding a satisfying new trick to the old ploy of having a vital witness always just out of reach. There are several good twists and the conclusion is both unexpected and exciting.
The characters are also interesting and nicely nuanced, and Gemma is a convincing mixture of professional competence and personal uncertainty around the trustfulness of her family and her ability to return to work. Like all good crime fiction, there is an undertone of social consciousness and concern about corporate greed, and a nice touch of cynicism in the conclusion.
In all, another stellar novel by one of the real stars of Australian crime writing.
Body Of Lies is released in Australia on 27 February 2024. Release dates for the United Kingdom and the United States are not currently clear, although it will be available on Kindle in the US from 27 February 2024. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the book for review.
Here is a link to my review of Sarah’s stand alone novel The Housemate, which was my favourite Australian crime novel of 2021: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/the-housemate-by-sarah-bailey-allen-unwin/