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The Housemate by Sarah Bailey

You know when you pick up a Sarah Bailey, you’re not only in the hands of a master storyteller, but going to be drawn into a twisty, twiney dark tale with flashes of humour, well-drawn characters and spine-tingling moments. In other words, buckle up and hang on- or, as I did, donned the pyjamas, settled into a cosy chair and read… and read… and read…

Years earlier, journalist Olive Groves covered a story where a young woman was murdered and one of her housemates was convicted and served time for the crime while the other one simply vanished. It’s a gruesome mystery that fascinated folk at the time and still does. The case obsessed Olive. So, when the missing housemate is found dead on a remote property nine years after she originally disappeared, Olive once again becomes involved, determined to unearth the truth. Only, this time, she’s given a side-kick – the precocious yet competent Cooper Ng, who produces a successful podcast and wants to add this case to his repertoire.

As Olive and Cooper work the story, and try and iron out the wrinkles in their professional relationship, new facts and secrets are uncovered, ones that both throw doubt upon original findings and shed new but very, very dangerous light on their current investigation. As more questions than answers arise, a dark threat grows, one that hovers not just over the case, but Olive and Cooper’s lives…

This is a fabulous fast-paced and unputdownable read that I devoured in no time at all. I loved that not only is it a great crime read, but the book also explores the changing nature of journalism – how it’s moved from what we might term the street-beat or “gum-shoe” style of covering stories by moving into the landscape and meeting and talking to people face to face, “feeling the story”, to not only relying on screens, media releases, Google and phone calls, but the growing dominance of podcasts and the older generation of workers’ resistance to this new form. It was so well done. Utterly plausible, thrilling and with a great and flawed heroine in Olive, this is thriller/mystery writing at its best.

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