BOOK REVIEW: Into the Night, murders in Melbourne

Bailey, Sarah - Into the NightInto the Night
by Sarah Bailey

Recently transferred to Melbourne from small town Smithson, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock has a difficult relationship with her partner, Nick Fleet, and is unable to judge what her commanding officer, Chief Isaac, thinks of her. Nursing wounds from a break-up and separation from her son, Gemma’s personal life is a mess. Yet, Melbourne suits her, and she finds comfort in the crowds and the anonymity.

When a homeless man is found, stabbed dead in a tunnel, Gemma is first to arrive on the scene. Yet, Isaac assigned another detective to lead the investigation. But shortly after, Gemma and Nick are able to test their mettle when rising star Sterling Wade is stabbed and killed while filming a key action scene for a Hollywood zombie movie. Yet, everyone they encounter, from Wade’s director Riley Cartwright, to his brother, Paul Wade, seems to have a motive and lack an alibi.

Into the Night falls into the category of literary mystery and has a lot to recommend itself. The writing is solid and the characters multidimensional. In fact, when one very likeable character commits an unforgivable betrayal, it hurts. Gemma herself is complicated, and she has a challenging relationship to the identity of motherhood not often depicted. I enjoyed the backdrop of the zombie movie production and the Melbourne setting. Additionally, the novel shows how a detective squad often has to balance multiple investigations, sometimes privileging one over others due to time or notoriety.

Bailey raises themes relating to celebrity and who gets to claim grief when one dies, the media, and their symbiotic but sometimes antagonistic relationship to law enforcement, and the invisibility and anonymity of the city which can be comforting but also dangerous, all of which were interesting to consider.

My main criticism of the book is that the Bailey chose to write the story in present tense; it didn’t quite work for me, instead feeling a little jarring, unless that was the intent. Plus, at times I found Gemma irritating, rather overdramatic and self-pitying, though I suppose we can all be accused of that at times.

Not until I read the Author Biography at the end of the book did I realize Into the Night was the second novel in the Gemma Woodstock series. The first was The Dark Lake published last year (2017). I plan to circle back and read that at some point because despite the few issues I had with the book, I did enjoy it overall. It will definitely appeal to readers who enjoy literary mysteries by authors such as Tana French.

Thank you to Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.