Back from the Backlist · Discussion Time · Random Bookish Things · Spotlight

6 Books That Were Not For Me…BUT They Could Be For You!

Although my blog is very much my hobby – and I have absolutely no expectation of it being anything more than that – I have to admit that, aside from being able to share the book love with lots of lovely like-minded folk, one of the very nice things about being a book blogger is being sent the occasional book by publishers or authors for review.

In my case, most of these books come because I’m on Blog Tours but, every so often, I request a book because I like the sound of it from the blurb and the buzz surrounding it. 90% of the time these books then go on to be read and reviewed on this blog (although let’s not talk about my NetGalley backlog – that’s a whole different post) but, every so often, the book isn’t quite what I was expecting and doesn’t quite float my bookish boat in the way I hoped it would.

Because I don’t review books that I don’t finish on the blog, that left me in a bit of a quandary about what to do with these ‘not for me’ books. Part of what I love about book blogging is being able to help authors and publishers spread the book love, and to share books with potential readers. And I’m especially keen to acknowledge anyone kind enough to send a proof or finished copy my way.

So rather than have the ‘not for me’ books sitting on my shelf accusingly, I decided to put together this post to spotlight them and share them with you. Because just because a book wasn’t for me doesn’t mean that it won’t be for you! I’ve given Goodreads links to all of the books, along with the blurb and publisher information as well as a link to a full review from another lovely blogger!

The Canary Keeper by Clare Carson

Publisher: Head of Zeus, 398 pages

Blurb: Branna ‘Birdie’ Quinn had no good reason to be by the river that morning, but she did not kill the man. She’d seen him first the day before, desperate to give her a message she refused to hear. And now the Filth will see her hang for his murder, just like her father.

To save her life, Birdie must trace the dead man’s footsteps. Back onto the ship that carried him to his death, back to cold isles of Orkney that sheltered him, and up to the far north, a harsh and lawless land which holds more answers than she looks to find…

Review: Check out this full review from Nicola over at Short Books and Scribes – she found it “intriguing, so full of depth and the writing is beautifully descriptive” and perfect for fans of historical fiction and mysteries!

Coming Up for Air by Sarah Leipeiger

Publisher: Doubleday, 308 pages

Blurb: Three extraordinary lives intertwine across oceans and centuries.

On the banks of the River Seine in 1899, a heartbroken young woman takes her final breath before plunging into the icy water. Although she does not know it, her decision will set in motion an astonishing chain of events. It will lead to 1950s Norway, where a grieving toymaker is on the cusp of a transformative invention, all the way to present-day Canada, where a journalist battling a terrible disease, drowning in her own lungs, risks everything for one last chance to live.

Moving effortlessly across time and space and taking inspiration from an incredible true story, Coming Up for Air is a bold, richly imagined novel about love, loss, and the immeasurable impact of every human life.

Review: Amanda over at Bookish Chat loved this one – her review said that “Sarah Leipciger’s writing is captivating and sharp and all historical and medical elements were very well researched and portrayed” and felt that “Coming Up For For Air is one of those books which stays with you long after you’ve finished it”. High praise indeed!

From the Wreck by Jane Rawson

Publisher: Picador, 272 pages

Blurb: When George Hills was pulled from the wreck of the steamship Admella, he carried with him memories of a disaster that claimed the lives of almost every other soul on board. Almost every other soul. Because as he clung onto the wreck, George wasn’t alone: someone else—or something else—kept George warm and bound him to life. Why didn’t he die, as so many others did, half-submerged in the freezing Southern Ocean? And what happened to his fellow survivor, the woman who seemed to vanish into thin air?

George will live out the rest of his life obsessed with finding the answers to these questions. He will marry, father children, but never quite let go of the feeling that something else came out of the ocean that day, something that has been watching him ever since. The question of what this creature might want from him—his life? His first-born? To simply return home?—will pursue him, and call him back to the ocean again.

Review: Simon Savidge absolutely ADORED this book – it was one of his books of 2018, before it had even been published in the UK! His blog review said that the book has “originality, wonderful writing, a brilliant twisting plot, fantastic characters and some themes within it that you can really get your teeth into, should you want to” and he’s also featured the book on Youtube.

Theft by Luke Brown

Publisher: And Other Stories

Blurb: What I did to them was terrible, but you have to understand the context. This was London, 2016 . . .

Bohemia is history. Paul has awoken to the fact that he will always be better known for reviewing haircuts than for his literary journalism. He is about to be kicked out of his cheap flat in east London and his sister has gone missing after an argument about what to do with the house where they grew up. Now that their mother is dead this is the last link they have to the declining town on the north-west coast where they grew up.

Enter Emily Nardini, a cult author, who – after granting Paul a rare interview – receives him into her surprisingly grand home. Paul is immediately intrigued: by Emily and her fictions, by her vexingly famous and successful partner Andrew (too old for her by half), and later by Andrew’s daughter Sophie, a journalist whose sexed-up vision of the revolution has gone viral. Increasingly obsessed, relationships under strain, Paul travels up and down, north and south, torn between the town he thought he had escaped and the city that threatens to chew him up.

Review: Lucy over at What Lucy Wrote thought that Theft was “a compelling and colourful reflection on division and truth – both within individuals and a country” with some brilliant characterisation. You can read her review here.

Beyond the Moon by Catherine Taylor

Publisher: The Cameo Press, 483 pages

Blurb: A strange twist of fate connects a British soldier fighting in the First World War in 1916 with a young woman living in modern-day England a century later, in this haunting literary time travel novel.

Two people, two battles: one against the invading Germans on the battlefields of 1916 France, the other against a substandard, uncaring mental health facility in modern-day England. Part war story, part timeslip, part love story – and at the same time a meditation on the themes of war, mental illness, identity and art, Beyond The Moon is an intelligent, captivating debut novel, perfect for book clubs.

In 1916 1st Lieutenant Robert Lovett is a patient at Coldbrook Hall military hospital in Sussex, England. A gifted artist, he’s been wounded fighting in the Great War. Shell shocked and suffering from hysterical blindness he can no longer see his own face, let alone paint, and life seems increasingly hopeless.

A century later in 2017, medical student Louisa Casson has just lost her beloved grandmother – her only family. Heartbroken, she drowns her sorrows in alcohol on the South Downs cliffs – only to fall accidentally part-way down. Doctors fear she may have attempted suicide, and Louisa finds herself involuntarily admitted to Coldbrook Hall – now a psychiatric hospital, an unfriendly and chaotic place.

Then one day, while secretly exploring the old Victorian hospital’s ruined, abandoned wing, Louisa hears a voice calling for help, and stumbles across a dark, old-fashioned hospital room. Inside, lying on the floor, is a mysterious, sightless young man, who tells her he was hurt at the Battle of the Somme, a WW1 battle a century ago. And that his name is Lieutenant Robert Lovett…

Review: Writing for NB Magazine, Nicola from Short Books and Scribes said that Beyond the Moon “is a fascinating read, both in terms of the detail and the well-plotted storyline” and that she “closed the book with a sense of satisfaction and pleasure that I had read it”. You can read her full review here.

When the Lights Go Out by Carys Bray

Publisher: Hutchinson, 326 pages

Blurb: Emma is beginning to wonder whether relationships, like mortgages, should be conducted in five-year increments. She might laugh if Chris had bought a motorbike or started dyeing his hair. Instead he’s buying off-label medicines and stockpiling food.

Chris finds Emma’s relentless optimism exasperating. A tot of dread, a nip of horror, a shot of anger – he isn’t asking much. If she would only join him in a measure of something.

The family’s precarious eco-system is further disrupted by torrential rains, power cuts and the unexpected arrival of Chris’s mother. Emma longs to lower a rope and winch Chris from the pit of his worries. But he doesn’t want to be rescued or reassured – he wants to pull her in after him.

Review: Another review from Amanda over at Bookish Chat! She thought that ” the gentle humour and real moments of tender interplay between family members is so heartwarming” and that Carys Bray has an “innate ability to write about the ordinary family dynamic against the backdrop of extraordinary circumstances”.

My thanks go to all of the authors and publishers who sent me copies of these books. Unfortunately they weren’t quite my cup of tea but, as the reviews I have chosen shown, these might just be the perfect books for a different reader!

Are there are books here that you’ve taken a fancy to? Please do let me know if you pick up any of the books mentioned in today’s post!

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews & features on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Author Q&A · Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR Q&A!!! The Silence by Susan Allott

The Silence CoverIt is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney, Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father phoning from Sydney. Thirty years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Green’s next-door neighbor Mandy disappeared. At the time, it was thought she fled a broken marriage and gone to start a new life; but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla’s father Joe was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and now he’s under suspicion of murder.

Isla unwillingly plans to go back to Australia for the first time in a decade to support her father. The return to Sydney will plunge Isla deep into the past, to a quiet street by the sea where two couples live side by side. Isla’s parents, Louisa and Joe, have recently emigrated from England – a move that has left Louisa miserably homesick while Joe embraces his new life. Next door, Steve and Mandy are equally troubled. Mandy doesn’t want a baby, even though Steve – a cop trying to hold it together under the pressures of the job – is desperate to become a father.

The more Isla asks about the past, the more she learns: about both young couples and the secrets each marriage bore. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? What will happen to their family if Isla’s worst fears are realized? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?

Susan Allott’s impressive debut puts suburban neighbourhoods under the microscope, takes a deep dive into the fractures of family relationships, and reveals the heart-breaking realities behind Australian’s stolen generations.

The Silence revolves around Isla, a young woman living in London and called home to suburban Sydney when her father becomes the main suspect in a decades old disappearence. As Isla investigates Mandy’s disappearence, she uncovers long-buried secrets that lie at the heart of her parent’s relationship – and is forced to come to terms with the legacy that these have left within her own life.

Although not an easy read by any means, The Silence makes for a thought-provoking and gripping investigation of familial and societal trauma, covering issues of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, PTSD and, most importantly, the danger that can be caused by the silences we refuse to acknowledge in our lives.

Alternating beween 1997 and 1967, this is a slow-burning mystery with a compelling core. Although all of the characters are severely damaged in their own ways, I found myself caught up in what was happening to them and desperate to find out how their present days lives had been shaped by the events of a long-ago summer.

With shades of both Jane Harper and Celeste Ng, The Silence is a meaty and compelling slice of domestic noir and I’m delighted to be able to welcome author Susan Allott to The Shelf today to tell us more about her dark suburban tale.

Hi Susan! Welcome to The Shelf of Unread Books! Thank you for taking the time to chat and answer some questions for me! First things first, could you please tell us a little bit about The Silence and what it is about?

Hello! Thanks for having me!

The Silence is an Australian-set mystery about an investigation into the disappearance of a woman called Mandy, who has in fact been missing for 30 years, but wasn’t reported missing until her father died and she didn’t come forward for his will. Mandy’s husband was a policeman at the time of her disappearance, and part of his job involved the removal of Aboriginal children from their families – a Government policy that continued until the 1970s.

These two strands of plot come together as Isla Green, whose father is a suspect in relation to Mandy’s disappearance, starts bringing all sorts of secrets to the surface – family secrets but wider historical ones too, all of which have been hidden in plain sight for a long time.

The Silence takes place over two time periods – 1997 and 1967 – and alternating between these slowly reveals the secrets that lie behind both Mandy’s disappearance and within the heart of Isla’s family. Did you always intend to structure the novel this way? And how did you manage the various complex plot strands across both timelines?

It actually dawned on me quite late that I needed the dual timeline structure to make the novel work. For a long time the novel was set entirely in 1967. As soon as I put the 1997 timeline in, the book started to feel mysterious and layered, and the whole thing came together. I loved putting in those chapters set in 1997 because I was living in Sydney in the late nineties myself, so I had a lot of memories to draw on. The 1967 timeline needed a lot more research.

I used a program called Scrivener to plan out the book, and I think I’d have been quite lost without it. It helped me to manage all the different points of view and fit the 1997 chapters around the 1967 ones. It also allowed me to move chapters around so the reveals came in at the right place. I had lots of notes in the margins of each chapter to remind myself of what I needed to hold back and what I needed to get across.

You alternate between a variety of perspectives in The Silence. Why did you want to bring multiple voices into the novel? And did you find any one character easier or more difficult to write than others?

That’s a good question. I wanted to write a novel that invited readers to empathise with a range of complex, flawed people, even if they weren’t always entirely sympathetic. By writing from a character’s point of view for a whole chapter at a time, I was able to get under their skin and inside their head, capturing the way they speak and think. Hopefully this made them three-dimensional and convincing.

The character of Steve was a real challenge but he was also the character I kept coming back to every time I started to despair of the book; he always fascinated me. I wanted readers to empathise with Steve and to feel quite uneasy about that, because of his role in the child removals. I didn’t want him to be easily written off as entirely bad. It’s so much more interesting to consider whether anyone is essentially bad; how we might all need to manage the good and bad in ourselves all the time. The ultimate and most uncomfortable question is whether any of us might be capable of doing something terrible if circumstances aligned. I hope I managed to prompt the reader to consider some of those things.

I loved writing Isla as a child in 1967. I don’t know why but I found the four-year-old voice quite easy to tap into – possibly because I have children of my own, who were young when I started writing. I also loved writing Mandy’s chapters. She is a complex woman, the product of her time, and she is quite different to me in many ways. Through Mandy I learned how to fully imagine a character and bring her to life.

I love the title of the book because silence really is at the heart of so many of the novel’s plot strands. From the official silence that surrounds the Stolen Generation to the domestic silence at the heart of Louisa and Joe’s marriage and the silence surrounding Mandy’s disappearance, there are so many things that these characters need to confront and learn to speak about. Did you always intend for silence to become a theme for the novel or did this emerge as you were writing?

It emerged as I was writing. I didn’t think about themes at all when I started out, I just concentrated on developing the characters and putting them into situations that would test them. It was quite late in the day when I realised that silence was a unifying theme. Or rather, I noticed that the novel was really about the things that go unspoken because they are too shameful to be put into words.

At some point I read the 1968 lectures by an Australian anthropologist called W.E.H. Stanner, where he refers to what he calls to the ‘great Australian silence’ around the history of Australia in relation to its First Nations people. That was when I took on board his idea of silence as a denial of history, and the title came from that.

Isla, Louisa, Joe, Mandy and Steve are all flawed individuals in their own way – they often make very poor choices that have negative consequences for themselves or others – yet I felt sympathy for them all. What made you want to write about these characters and how did you go about giving them some fairly dramatic flaws whilst retaining the reader’s sympathy for them?

It’s interesting you say that because I wasn’t sure I wanted the reader to retain sympathy for them all. What I was aiming for was empathy, which I think is different to sympathy. There are some things that some characters do which I think make sympathy very difficult – although I don’t want to dictate how readers respond to characters of course!

The way I write is to try to imagine what it feels like to be the character I’m describing. What it’s like to physically be in their body, whether their clothes feel comfortable against their skin, whether they can taste the last thing they ate, whether they are hot or cold or thirsty. When I have that physical sense of them, I start making things happen to them and I start to hear their voice and understand the world from their perspective. I gave them flaws because everyone is flawed and that’s what makes people interesting and relatable. I think people enjoy reading about characters they can relate to; they don’t all have to be ‘likeable’ in my opinion, as long as you understand where they’re coming from.

I was fascinated by the way in which the novel interconnects with the history of the Stolen Generation, and was particularly taken by your author’s note when you correctly state that the subject of Australia’s colonial legacy isn’t really taught in British schools. Did you always intend to write about this aspect of Australian history or did this emerge as you wrote the novel? And can you tell us a little bit about your research of this topic?

I’d written several chapters of The Silence, and had a whole cast of characters, when I read a book called Australia, the History of a Nation by Philip Knightley. He mentions a policeman living in Victoria, a southern Australian state, who gets home from work and cries on his veranda because part of his job is to remove Aboriginal children from their families and take them to state institutions. I already knew about the Stolen Generation but hadn’t thought of writing about it. But this policeman and his personal conflict felt like a way in. I wanted to know how someone would cope with realising that something they believed to be right was in fact wrong, and had caused untold pain. I couldn’t stop thinking about him.

Easily the most important source while writing The Silence was the National Library of Australia oral history project, where Aboriginal people who were removed as kids, or whose family members were removed, talk about that experience. There are hundreds of recordings and I listened to some of them several times. I also made good use of the Bringing them Home report which was tabled by the Australian Federal Parliament in 1997 and examines the child removal policy in great detail, leading to the national apology in 2008.

I had the novel checked by several Australian readers too, including an Aboriginal man based in New South Wales who gave it his approval. And my publisher arranged a sensitivity read which was very helpful and I took all their comments on board. Although The Silence is a work of fiction, I feel a responsibility to the people who went through the events I’m describing, and I wanted to capture it all as truthfully as I could.

The Silence is your debut novel. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of writing it and your journey from manuscript to publication?

I started writing The Silence the year I turned 40, which was also the year my youngest child started school. I’d been trying to write before that, and had always wanted to write a novel, but it was the peace of the empty house that allowed me to finally get started. It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, to write a book and then re-write it umpteen times until it’s good enough. Especially as I was also working part time and raising my kids. Writing requires you to be selfish, to forget about everyone and everything apart from your fictional world, for long stretches of time. Sometimes it’s hard to justify that, especially when you doubt you’ll ever be published.

The Silence is the first novel I wrote, as well as my first published novel, and I taught myself to write with this book, making all sorts of mistakes in the process. It took me 7 years to write, but I guess all the hard work paid off because when my agent submitted the manuscript to publishers we had interest from Harper Collins within 24 hours, and they went on the buy the book.

Moving away from writing for a moment, I always ask guests on The Shelf to recommend some books. Were there any books that particularly influenced your writing of The Silence or that you would recommend to readers who love The Silenceand want some more Antipodean-set fiction?

The book that influenced me the most was The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. He tells his story from multiple points of view, and each chapter immerses us entirely in the experience and world view of a different character from a diverse Melbourne community. It’s the most impressive exercise in empathy I’ve ever read.

I was also inspired by The Secret River by Kate Grenville. It’s a well-told and moving story that will leave you feeling uneasy about the way Australia was settled, with enough nuance to stop short of easy judgements against any of the characters.

There are lots of excellent books written by First Nations Australians; the one I was most influenced by was Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence by Daisy Pilkington Garimara. Told by Molly’s daughter Doris, this is the incredible story of how the three girls escaped the children’s home they’d been sent to in Western Australia and walked 1600 kilometers back to their home in Jigalong. The film that was based on the book, called Rabbit Proof Fence, is also excellent.

Now that The Silence is out in the world, what’s next for you? Are you writing a second novel and, if so, can you tell us anything about it?

My current work-in-progress is a spooky mystery set in south London about a young couple whose house renovations unsettle the history of a building, unlocking a pocket of time that starts to bleed into the present. They need to stop history repeating itself if they want to avoid the fate of the previous inhabitants.

I’m enjoying writing about my own local area this time around – no need for google earth! Especially as a lot of the planning and research has been done during lockdown, it’s been amazing to spend so much time exploring the place where I live, which I’ve been guilty of taking for granted in the past. So it’s a big diversion from writing about the other side of the planet. Whether it will be easier this time around remains to be seen!

Many thanks to Susan for taking the time to answer my questions and tell us more about The Silence. It’s fantastic to see more antipodean-set fiction making its way to UK shores and I’m sure The Silence will provide fans of Jane Harper and Celeste Ng looking for their next slice of suburban noir.

The Silence by Susan Allott is published by Borough Press and is available now from all good bookstores and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, and Book Depository.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a Netgalley widget for the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 15 August so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!

The Silence BT Poster



Author Q&A · Blog Tours

BLOG TOUR Q&A!! The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

thumbnail_The Dark LakeI am delighted to welcome Australian author Sarah Bailey to The Shelf today to talk about her page-turning debut thriller The Dark Lake.

A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses. Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before.

But that’s not all Gemma’s trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim’s past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried. The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths…


thumbnail_Sarah Bailey Author PictureWelcome to The Shelf of Unread Books Sarah! The Dark Lake is your debut. Can you tell us a little about the book and how you came to write it? 

Thank you for having me! 

The Dark Lake is a police procedural with a heavy dose of character study. There is a murder to solve and that propels the narrative but along the way we learn a lot about the detective assigned to the case – Gemma Woodstock. Gemma knew the victim, high school teacher Rosalind Ryan. Both grew up in the regional Australian town of Smithson where the book is set and both are keeping secrets. As Gemma works with her colleagues to identify Rosalind’s murderer, these secrets are revealed. 

From memory, it was the character of Gemma that came to me first and then I built the story around her. She is a complex, layered person and I enjoyed teasing out the various elements of her past that have contributed to her manner and approach to life. 

I get most of my ideas when I am doing things like driving or watching TV and the basic plot for this story came to me on a long drive one evening after my kids fell asleep in the backseat. I wrote the first chapter that evening and definitely had a good feeling about the story even though I wasn’t clear how it would all come together. 

The novel focuses on two women, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock and her former classmate Rosalind Ryan and covers both their time together at high school and Gemma’s later investigation into Rosalind’s death. Did you deliberately set out to make the links between the two women underpin the novel? Did both women arrive in your head together or did one character develop first?

Gemma definitely arrived in my head first. I fairly quickly sketched out her physicality and her character and could see what motivated her and what made her feel insecure.  

This is where Rosalind came in. In many ways she is the opposite to Gemma, or at least she is in Gemma’s mind.  As the story runs in two timelines, a lot of the book explores how the past impacts the present and the butterfly effect that certain actions can have, even years later. I tried to manage the complex links between Gemma and Rosalind carefully as this really was the key to the narrative arc – hopefully I succeeded. 

The novel is filled with secrets, both in the past and the present timelines and there are a number of interweaving elements. How on earth did you keep everything together in your head? I’m envisaging some sort of enormous wall chart with connecting lines and arrows all over it..!

It did get a bit tricky at certain points. I found the first draft relatively straight forward, I didn’t plot much, I had the premise and a few key points to hit and then I just wrote.  

The editing however almost did me in! That’s when I almost had to pull apart my own story and wrangle it into shape. I had timelines, Post-It notes – all that stuff.  

I used to joke that while Gemma was staring at case boards and trying to solve Rosalind’s murder, I was in the same boat rearranging my Post-It notes and trying to make the book work!  

It’s often thought that crime fiction is a reflection of the culture and society that it’s written in and about. Was the small town setting a deliberate choice on your part? And in what ways did the setting impact on your writing of The Dark Lake?

I think small towns are increasingly interesting. As we all become more connected I feel like there will be a growing fascination with places that remain small and isolated.  

In The Dark Lake, the town of Smithson is as much a character as the people. I wanted readers to be able to feel the heat and experience the oppressiveness felt by Gemma as she railed against the small-town scrutiny and small mindedness. I enjoyed showcasing the irony of her feeling like she was trapped in such a wide, open place. 

From a writing perspective I really tried to make the environment as clear as possible so that people could picture the place that had shaped Gemma. 

The Dark Lake has been really well received in your native Australia, as well as in the US and Canada, and has been in the Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2017 list and a Book of the Month club pick. What’s it been like to as a debut author to see your novel out in the world and being taken up by readers? Was it a smooth process from writing the book to publication? 

It is a very strange feeling! Seeing the book online or in bookstores was surreal, especially at the start. A few weeks after the book came out in Australia a friend texted me a photo of someone reading the book on the bus and for some reason that really hit home. I think it just felt so genuine and real.  

I was fortunate to have quite a smooth publication journey for The Dark Lake. I queried an agent online (Lyn Tranter) and she was interested in the manuscript from the beginning. She provided me with a lot of useful feedback and suggestions which I took on board. Once she felt it was in a good place, she pitched it to publishers and it got picked up by Allen & Unwin which was incredible. 

So it was actually quite a quick process and I really enjoyed working with people on the book after plugging away on my own for so long. 

There is however a graveyard of old manuscripts on my laptop and I hate to think how many hours I spent working on ideas that have gone nowhere so it has taken quite a long time to get to this point and there has been a lot of false starts 

I feel very lucky and very glad that I persevered and finished the book – there were quite a few points I the process where it definitely could have gone the other way. 

Following the success of The Dry, Australian fiction seems to finally be getting some recognition here in the UK. Do you feel that Australian crime fiction differs in any way from its UK and US counterparts? Or is the love of a good mystery universal?

I think it is universal. I believe that all good stories draw on big human themes and challenge us in some way to confront our own emotions and study our own relationships. 

In saying that, I feel like there are different storytelling styles and certainly different settings and perhaps people are becoming more interested to see how the dry Aussie landscape enhances a murder mystery. Snow was all the rage a few years back so who knows what will be next – maybe the seaside?! 

It’s frustratingly difficult to get hold of antipodean books over here. For anyone keen to discover more, do you have any recommendations of antipodean authors in need of wider recognition? And do you have any favourite crime thriller authors who inspire your own work? 

There are so many Australian authors that I love! Kylie Ladd is very good as is Sally Hepworth. Mark Brandi and Ben Hobson both published amazing Australian stories last year as did Claire G Coleman. 

The Stella Prize is always worth checking out, they create a list of ‘must read’ titles by female Aussie authors every year. UK residents should be able to search for this online and then access the books fairly easily. 

Another favourite of mine is Michael Robotham who is the master of nailing a character led crime thriller. And Liane Morriaty can weave a story like no one else.  

Honestly though, I could go on for ever, there are a lot of talented Aussie writers! 

Outside of Australia I love Ruth Ware, Sarah Pinborough, Gillian Flynn – and one of my favourite books in recent memory is Noah Hawley’s Before The Fall. 

So what’s next for you? Is there more in store for Detective Sergeant Woodstock? 

 Yes, Gemma will definitely be back. I’ve just finished the final edits on the sequel which is called Into The Night. It follows on from The Dark Lake but is set almost three years later and quite a lot has happened in Gemma’s personal life since. She has moved to Melbourne and is navigating lots of new relationships – along with solving new murders of course!

It will be published in Australia this May and in the UK early in 2019. 


The Dark Lake is available now and is perfect for fans of Jane Harper, with that page-turning, suspenseful quality that will grip you from the off and promises plenty of clever twists and turns along the way. With its brooding atmosphere and a female lead who has more than a few personal problems to deal with, it’s also reminiscent of the work of Claire Mackintosh and Gillian Flynn.

For anyone eager to follow up on Sarah’s recommendation and check out the current Stella Prize longlist, the list of titles can be found on their website here. Personally I’ve found Book Depository to be one of the better sites for getting hold of Australian fiction. An increasing number of antipodean books also seem to be being published on Kindle or in other ebook formats. If anyone has any other recommended sites for getting hold of books by Antipodean authors, please do drop a link in the comments below.

A big thank you again to Sarah for being kind enough to answer my questions! The blog tour for The Dark Lake has been running since 01 March so do go and take a look at some of the other posts for reviews, features and more!

The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey is published by Corvus and is available now as a trade paperback and ebook from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones and Amazon. My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased feature, and to Anne Cater for organising the blog tour. 

The Dark Lake Blog Tour Poster