After a sensational prologue, a fast and furious set piece that would make a fantastic pre-title sequence should this be turned into a film, BODY OF LIES, the latest Gemma Woodstock novel, gets weighed down in domestic detail like a lumpy nappy bag.

A car crash victim clings to life and is rushed to hospital but can’t be saved. Hours later, her corpse is stolen from the morgue. No one knows who the dead woman was or why her body was taken.

Co-incidentally, a baby is found abandoned on the banks of the local river.

Still on maternity leave, Gemma Woodtock surreptitiously joins the investigation, her new baby strapped to her chest as nonchalantly as a shoulder holster.

An instinctual detective, Woodstock muses “I’ve always felt that bearing witness to someone’s last minutes, getting as close as I can to the moment they died, bonds me to both victim and perpetrator in a way that feels important. It’s as if once I’ve seen the destruction first hand my resolve to seek justice becomes personal. It lights a fire in me that needs to be extinguished, and the only way that can happen is with resolution.”

That resolution takes a long time coming in BODY OF LIES as the tale meanders from the external investigation to Gemma’s internal paranoia, jealousies and insecurities as she uncovers devastating secrets about the people she thought she knew best.

The resultant plot is a mash up police procedural with Gothic overtones, a mad scientist body snatcher and human experimenter, an aged care and sanitarium complex filling in for Frankenstein’s lab.

BODY OF LIES suffers from obesity, a problem that seems endemic in publishing lately, where books are produced in the form of a brick, the mortar a meandering of padding rather than dramatic necessity.


BODY OF LIES by Sarah Bailey is published by Allen & Unwin