Sarah Bailey follows up her successful debut The Dark Lake with another procedural focused around detective Gemma Woodstock. Into the Night is, in some ways, a more traditional procedural. Having moved Gemma from her home town of Smithson to the bright lights of Melbourne, Bailey does not need to rely on the personal backstory (and clear conflict of interest) that drove much of the action in her debut.
Into the Night opens with a murder. A homeless man is found stabbed to death and detective Gemma Woodstock is first on the scene. Despite this, her commanding officer gives the case to another detective to run. Soon this murder is well and truly overshadowed by the murder of a movie star on set during filming. This death, also a stabbing, took place on camera but in a zombie crowd scene which makes it impossible to identify the assailant. This case is handed to Woodstock and her alpha male partner Fleet to run and before long they are confronted by a mass of suspects and red herrings while also running the media gauntlet.
Gemma’s voice is once again the centre of Bailey’s narrative. In the move to Melbourne she has left her son Ben behind with his father and loosened her family ties. But while she has physically left her issues behind, they still haunt her personal decisions. And a quick visit back to her home town does not make things any easier. But despite her idiosyncratic decision making on the personal front, and some issues with her colleagues, Gemma is still a good detective and is slowly able to piece her way through the thicket of clues and false trails.
Into the Night is a solid procedural. While it is a tough grind for the police, constant twists and reveals keep the investigation fresh. And Bailey manages to explore a number of contemporary issues – the cult of personality, the role of social media and the #MeToo movement. As a second novel this manages to avoid repeating many of the beats of the first. And with this expansion of her world, it feels like Gemma Woodstock might be with us for a while.