I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Last Clinic by Gary Gusick
Series: Darla Cavannah #1
Published by Alibi on January 1, 2012
Amazon | Goodreads
Outside the local women’s health clinic, the Reverend Jimmy Aldridge waving his protest sign is a familiar sight. But that changes early one morning when someone shoots the beloved Reverend Jimmy dead. Sheriff Shelby Mitchell knows the preacher’s murder will shock the good people of Jackson—and the pressure to find the killer is immediate and intense, which is why Shelby calls in detective Darla Cavannah.
When police detective Darla moved from Philadelphia to Jackson with her husband—hometown football hero Hugh “the Glue” Cavannah—she never imagined the culture shock that awaited. Then after Hugh dies in a car crash, Darla enters a self-imposed exile in her Mississippi home, taking a leave of absence from the sheriff’s department. Now she’s called back to duty—or coerced, more like it, with Shelby slathering on his good-ole-boy charm nice and thick, like on a helping of barbecue.
Reluctantly partnered with a mulish Elvis impersonator, Darla keeps a cool head even as the community demands an arrest. The court of public opinion has already convicted the clinic’s doctor, Stephen Nicoletti, but Darla is just as sure he’s not guilty—even as she fights her growing attraction to him. From the genteel suburbs to a raunchy strip club, Darla follows a trail of dirty money and nasty secrets—until the day of judgment comes, and she faces down an ungodly assassin.
It’s been six months since Detective Darla Cavannah’s husband, Hugh, died in a car crash. She’s roused from her leave of absence when her boss, the county sheriff, calls her in to help with a controversial murder case. She’s “partnered” with another detective who’s more infamous for being an Elvis impersonator than his investigative skills. Set in Jackson, Mississippi, the cultural views of the town share equal space with the hard facts of the investigation.
The murder victim is the renowned Rev. Jimmy Aldridge who most recently has been holding vigil each morning outside the local women’s health clinic in a pretty outrageous manner. And, it’s where he was murdered in the early morning hours. The politics around the case are crazy, heightened even more because of a controversial abortion bill before the legislature that was destined for failure before the Reverend’s murder. It now may gain sympathy traction as the prime suspect is the clinic’s doctor, Stephen Nicoletti. There’s a real rush to judgment to accuse, try and convict him.
What I liked about the story
I really liked Darla who is smart, has a killer wit and knows how to manage the politics. She’s a former Philadelphia detective, accepted here because she was married to the town’s darling, a former NFL quarterback but she’s still considered an outsider. Her humor is wry and she doesn’t take the bait from the idiot detective she’s partnered with on the case. Darla adeptly maneuvers around him, knowing when to let him take the credit for her investigative work and when to set him down a peg. She’s skilled and followed the twists, turns and surprises to a stunning climax. There was a parallel subplot that intersected seamlessly at the right moment. And, there’s a romance, which was a bit of a (nice) surprise.
I also liked how a controversial, lightening rod topic was managed, with friends and neighbors co-existing pretty well on opposite sides of the issue. The story managed to stay away from taking a particular stand and representing the issue through the eyes of the characters. It was really well done.
The bottom line
The best mysteries/suspense stories have to be well paced, with relevant conflicts, interesting characters and believable plots and/or procedurals. This book met all that criteria and more. The writing is nimble without wasted action or story. The color of the Southern culture is perfectly captured without relying heavily on caricature or stereotype. It’s a really good story and I’m looking forward to the next book, especially as there are secondary characters I’d like to know better.
I also love to talk about books. There’s nothing more exciting than to finish a great story and cover it A to Z with other people, exploring different perspectives and points of view. So, if you see something on my shelf you’d like to talk about, send me a message and we’ll talk!
Friend me at Goodreads.