Body of Lies by Sarah Bailey

Reviewed by Rod McLary

This is the fourth book by Sarah Bailey featuring Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock but the first one which I have read – an oversight which I intend to rectify as soon as possible.

DS Gemma Woodstock is an engaging, multi-dimensional protagonist who is balancing the demands of a baby daughter, a son on the cusp of adolescence, and her second husband who may possibly be a cause for some concern.  If this was not enough, she is also drawn into investigating the theft of a car crash victim’s body from the morgue.  The car crash itself is suspicious as a witness claims that the victim’s car was run off the road and the victim has no ID and no one recognises her.  And then her body goes missing.  Thus begins a complex and thrilling story as the unfolding of the investigation brings Gemma closer and closer to her own family and its secrets.

In this gripping crime thriller, no one and nothing is what it seems to be.  From the CEO of the hospital Roger Kirk, his uncle Carlyle Kirk who owns and administers a mental health facility [which has a nefarious side hustle], to Detective Sergeant Julian Everett – Gemma’s colleague – everyone seems to have a backstory which is hidden but emerges from time to time to murky the waters and threaten to derail the investigation.

Balancing the plotlines and the personal lives of many of the key protagonists is no mean feat but is one the author manages with confidence and a sure touch.  While a few of the characters are drawn with a rather broad brush, many are quite recognisable and, in their own ways, likeable.  But the real narrative is about the missing body – who was she, where did she come from, and why was her body stolen?  In uncovering the answers to these questions, more questions are raised and some characters turn out to be very different from their public personas.

Sarah Bailey has crafted a compelling crime thriller which demands to be read through to the end if only to relieve the tension created by an exciting narrative with [some] characters that the reader can care about.  Along the way, DS Gemma Woodstock manages to balance her personal life with her professional responsibilities while solving the crimes perpetrated by the villains.

In the Acknowledgements [470], there is a suggestion by the author that Body of Lies may be the last chapter of Gemma’s story.  If that is the case, then Australian crime fiction has lost a fine and relatable protagonist.

Sarah Bailey lives in Melbourne and has written five novels – four of which feature Gemma Woodstock and one stand-alone The Housemate.  Her first novel – The Dark Lake – was the winner of the 2017 Ned Kelly Award for Best New Fiction and the Davitt Award for Best Debut.

Body of Lies


by Sarah Bailey

Allen and Unwin

ISBN: 978 1761 0691 78

$34.99; 470pp

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