Title: The Housemate
Author: Sarah Bailey
Published: August 31, 2021
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genre: Crime & Mystery
Content warnings: Murder, child abuse, child pornography, corruption
I received a copy of The Housemate from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Three housemates. One dead, one missing and one accused of murder.
Dubbed the Housemate Homicide, it’s a mystery that has baffled Australians for almost a decade.
Melbourne-based journalist Olive Groves worked on the story as a junior reporter and became obsessed by the case. Now, nine years later, the missing housemate turns up dead on a remote property. Olive is once again assigned to the story, this time reluctantly paired with precocious millennial podcaster Cooper Ng.
As Oli and Cooper unearth new facts about the three housemates, a dark web of secrets is uncovered. The revelations catapult Oli back to the death of the first housemate, forcing her to confront past traumas and insecurities that have risen to the surface again.
What really happened between the three housemates that night? Will Oli’s relentless search for the murderer put her new family in danger? And could her suspicion that the truth lies closer to home threaten her happiness and even her sanity?
A riveting, provocative thriller from the bestselling author of The Dark Lake, Into the Nightand Where the Dead Go.
A few years back I read an Australian crime novel based purely on the cover and title. It was a debut book by a Melbourne-based author named Sarah Bailey. The Dark Lake was not what I was expecting and I was immediately hooked and so compelled by the storytelling that I made sure to read both follow-up books.
I remember seeing the cover reveal for The Housemate earlier this year and being irrationally excited about a new Sarah Bailey book (especially for someone who only picks up a handful of crime/thriller books every year), and I’m pleased to report, that it did not disappoint.
The Housemate is the tale of investigative reporter, Oli, who ten years earlier covered a strange murder case involving three university friends. One girl was murdered, the other missing and the third was convicted of the murder. A decade later, the case of the missing girl is still unsolved and remains unsettling for Oli, particularly when a report comes in that the missing girl has been found dead, presumably by suicide. Thrust back onto the case, this time with a young podcaster named Cooper, Oli finds out that the mysterious circumstances surrounding the Housemate Homicide might be even darker than she first imagined.
There was plenty to like in this book – it has atmosphere, pacing, and the story kept me guessing all the way to the end.
Oli is an interesting point of view character (although we do have flashbacks to one of the girls throughout the story, too) because she’s a print journalist trying to maintain her career in a world rapidly hurtling towards digital news reporting. She’s in a long-term relationship with Dean, a widowed father with twins, whom she was involved with a decade earlier while he was in a relationship with the lead detective on the case (who has since passed away), but even that relationship is strained as they try to balance their working lives with their private one. Her relationship with Cooper – a delightfully sunshiny character who talks a mile-a-minute – is rocky to begin with before she begins to recognise that even though his reporting style is different to hers, it’s no less valuable.
The story is set in Melbourne (my home town) and for me that added an additional layer to the story as I could picture all of the locations. It feels like Melbourne to me, but it also feels like any big city where crimes occur and and are covered by the media. Which is a huge part of the story – as Oli’s workplace tries to maintain their ratings by chasing the biggest cases and getting the scoop, pressure is on Oli and her colleagues to perform and uncover secrets, even if those secrets might end up being hazardous to their health.
There are some fairly dark themes that underpin the story and just as you think you’ve got an idea of who or what might have been responsible for the crimes, something comes up that unravels it. It makes for a page-turning read. I am very impressed with the way Sarah Bailey manages to weave all of the elements in the story together to create this cohesive (and occasionally disturbing) story about the lengths that people will go to keep their secrets.