Into the Night
Sarah Bailey
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Buy *Into the Night (A Gemma Woodstock Novel)* by Sarah Baileyonline

Into the Night (A Gemma Woodstock Novel)
Sarah Bailey
Grand Central Publishing
416 pages
December 2018
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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DS Gemma Woodstock is doing what she does best--relentlessly tearing after murderers--though in Into the Night, she seems to have reached a crossroads. For the past three months, she's been living in Melbourne and working with new colleague, handsome chainsmoker Detective Sergeant Nick Fleet. Far away from her hometown of Smithson and far from the arms of her beloved son, Ben, Gemma spends her nights in an excess of alcohol and reckless sex, which further muddles the actions of this high-functioning but deeply broken detective. Gemma's need for Ben pushes her into darker and darker places: "I was scared to be alone with him, saying goodbye to Ben was like a stake to the heart."

The first murder victim is Walter Miller, a homeless 62-year-old with a staccato history of mental illness. Though there are no track marks or drug paraphernalia at the scene, Gemma knows that his death will remain an inexplicable cruelty, "a nasty statistic." Then popular 23-year-old actor Sterling Wade is stabbed while filming a scene from his latest movie. Gemma's mixture of procedural greenery and studious understanding of psychotic behaviors has her lining up the suspects with a bemused Nick standing by her side. Lizzie Short, Wade's girlfriend, and Riley Cartwright, the film's director, know what actually happened: "my guess is that it was an accident, someone got carried away with a prop and stabbed him." Perhaps the attack was random, a bizarre impulse that overtook one of the cast members.

Gemma and Nick try to unpack Wade's secretive world. Back at the station, the team, led by Chief Inspector Toby Isaacs try to counter the intense public reaction. The killer is clearly getting more brazen. While Nick tries to dig up information of Wade's past, Gemma keeps tabs on Brodie Kent, the bewildered young man who was closest to Sterling. Soft-spoken and pale-faced, Brodie tearfullyl reveals that he's been holding his friend's secrets close. Sterling Wade proves to be both familiar and remote; he feels like more than an acquaintance, perhaps almost a friend: "Like a storyline on the television show, The Street, Wade's death could just as easily not be real."

The plot is not as tight as Bailey's first outing, The Dark Lake; the outcome is a bit frantically silly given that Gemma's active investigation takes so long to get going). Still, the story delves into how Gemma copes without Ben, and her place in unique world of Melbourne's law enforcement, and her growing attraction to the ever-truculent Nick, who is deliberately obtuse and inexplicably intent on not liking people (which gives them more reasons not to like him). A hazy slideshow plays in Gemma's head: stabbed Sterling, the raw shock on his face; the surge of zombies; Lizzie's screams. Gemma wonders what was really going on in their relationship, the young actor who was so much more complex than his lighthearted interviews suggest. After a "collector killer" embarking on a deranged challenge to attack different kinds of people, Bailey weaves into her plot a newly vulnerable and conflicted Gemma, a woman out of place driven by the need to get to the truth behind the murderer's modus operandi.

Plunging into the darkness of human jealously, Gemma takes us along a sudden paper trail of suspects that leads to a portrait of a killer who delights in misdirection. From a lonely woman's past to a covetous girlfriend, Ben's image rises up, constantly haunting Gemma. Melbourne is a great setting--cold, bleak and rain-soaked, but also cosmopolitan and beautiful. The City's upward glow keeps Gemma's desires muted, if only for a time.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Michael Leonard, 2019

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