Presto pubblicato anche in Italia, è il primo romanzo di una serie che vede come protagonista il detective Gemma Woodstock alle prese con un omicidio che la colpisce da vicino.

Gemma Woodstock is a detective in the small town of Smithson, Australia, where she was born and she grew up. One morning, she is called on a murder scene by the lake where she is shocked to discover that the victim is Rosalind Ryan, English and Drama teacher at the local high school, and a former classmate of Gemma. Together with her partner Felix McKinnon, Gemma starts to investigate, interrogating Rosalind’s strange family, fellow professors, students, and parents. It seems that everyone liked Rosalind but nobody knew much about her. She didn’t seem to have a social life or a boyfriend and, although she was friendly with everyone, she was always on her own.

In addition to the case, Gemma has her own personal problems to deal with. She is terrified at the idea that her partner Scott would propose. Although she loves her three-year-old son Ben, she is not very maternal towards him. She is in love with her partner Felix with whom she is having an affair. And she is still grieving over Jacob, her high school boyfriend who killed himself ten years before. And she is afraid that her boss finds out that Rosalind was not just a former classmate.

As the Christmas holidays approach, Gemma and Felix are nowhere close to find Rosalind’s killer and the more they find out about her the more questions they have: who was the man in her life? And what happened with that student in Sidney? And what was going on between Rosalind and her family?

I found the character of Gemma very messy. She doesn’t seem to know what she wants, she is a bit too selfish, and she has to many secrets. Despite all these things, I still liked her and I enjoyed seeing how she slowly (very slowly) develops throughout the novel. At the end, she is not much better, but she is a little more mature.

The plot is engaging, dramatic, and gripping. There are many secrets that are slowly unraveled as the narration alternates between the past and the present. The tension is high and throughout the novel there are a few surprising and shocking moments.

Living on the other side of the hemisphere, I don’t really get a summer and hot Christmas, but, apart from that, I really enjoyed this psychological thriller and I was really excited to find out that the author is working on a sequel starring Detective Gemma Woodstock.