Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Last Clinic: Gary Gusick

By the time I was three chapters into this book, I was beginning to dislike the approach. I found that the depiction of the South and its denizens was a little over the top. Maybe flippant, maybe serious, I could not tell. The comments that set the book firmly in the South sometimes seemed too forced. However, by the time I had read about 40% of the book (I was reading via the Kindle app), I was involved in the plot and ready to forgive most of the quibbles I had with the book.

From the description at 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.
The Reverend is protesting the women's health clinic because the doctor who runs it is known to do abortions. This book puts the topic of abortion front and center.  Put that together with the fact that I grew up in the South (Alabama), and reading this touched on some hot topics for me. Primarily, judging it as a mystery, I give it very high marks. I did have quibbles in some areas, however.

The strength of this book is in the plot. The story moved forward with a good pace, and there were side stories that were interesting. It kept me engaged.

I liked the protagonist, a woman, and felt like her character was well developed. Darla Cavanaugh has come to the Hinds County Sheriff's Department from the Philadelphia Police Department and is an outsider. Her husband, who was killed in an automobile accident within the last year, was a native of Jackson, and a hometown hero because he was a pro football star.

However, I felt like the remaining characters were either caricatures or not fully developed. OK, I really did like Shelby Mitchell, the sheriff and Darla's boss, even though he chewed tobacco... and "addressed all women, regardless of their name or marital status, as Miss, followed by their first name." So Darla is "Miss Darla", her partner is addressed as Tommy.

Tommy Reylander is nominally Darla's partner on this case, although they are working in different directions and not supporting each other at all. Tommy is a local, and he is an Elvis impersonator. If he was better at it, he would be doing that for a living rather than working in law enforcement.

I found that the depiction of the South and its denizens was a little over the top. However, the author lives in Jackson, Mississippi and I haven't been in that state in decades, so who am I to say? I honestly was not sure how serious the author was when describing attitudes in the South.  And those descriptions made me more than a little uncomfortable at times.

Many reviews say that the book presents both sides of the abortion issue very fairly but I cannot agree with that. To be clear, I am not strongly pro or con the subject of abortion. In this book, the characters who were anti-abortion were primarily portrayed as rednecks or worse. I am sure that in the South there are intelligent thinking persons who are anti-abortion.

So you can see that I liked a lot about the book, but had problems with it too. It is Gary Gusick's debut novel, and I think he has done quite well. At the same time that the book made me uncomfortable, it made me think, and that is a good thing. This book is supposed to be part of a series, and if another is published, I will read it.

I received a free copy of this book for review via NetGalley. 

Info about the author that was supplied at the end of the e-book copy I had:
Gary Gusick is a retired advertising executive with more than thirty years experience as a copywriter and creative director. He is a multiple winner of virtually every national and international award for creative excellence in advertising. Gary is married and lives with his wife in Jackson, Mississippi.
Some other reviews:
At The Novel Pursuit
At Writing To Be Read


30 comments:

  1. It sounds kind of intriguing to me. If it makes one think, it certainly has good attributes. I probably agree with the author on the main issue he's talking about, but I certainly like books that push the intellectual envelope.
    Mississippi is a tough state in many ways; it presents a lot of tough issues as a backdrop.
    I may try to find this book, but I have so much to read here. And so many good books just published.

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    1. Kathy, I find it hard reading books set in the South. I am going to push myself to read more of those in 2014.

      My cousins live in Mississippi (in a small town) and I did not see anyone in this story that reminds me of them.

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  2. Tracy, I don't mind overlooking the quibbles (though tobacco chewing would bother me too) if the story is arresting enough. This one seems like a good read in spite of the politically sensitive issue.

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    1. Prashant, it was a good read, and thought provoking, so I hope the author publishes more books. In some ways, it is not my type of book, more of a thriller, but I admire authors who work to get their books published and want to support them.

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  3. An interesting book but TBH one that doesn't particularly grab me. I do haunt Net Galley and passed this one on by. Perhaps by the time you've read and reviewed the third or fourth in the series, I will want to catch up then!

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    1. Yes, Col we will see how the series progresses. This book doesn't seem much like most of the books you read. Although it is definitely not a cozy.

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  4. Tracy - I know just what you mean about characters that are too 'flat.' That tends to bother me too. Still, this one really does have what seems like a very interesting plot. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Margot, this was definitely better in the plot area than in the character development area. But some of the characters were entertaining.

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  5. Interesting to get such a balanced review, Tracy. I think I might had given up reading the book at some point so well done you for persevering.

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. At some point the plot really did grab me. And my curiosity about the portrayal of Southerners would not let me stop, and it is interesting to read about things that (some) Southerners take for granted: like hunting and football.

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  6. Even though I like thought-provoking books, if a thriller is too fast-paced and doesn't have character development, I can get left behind in the dust. Does this one have enough on characters?
    Do try Tom Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. That has character development, and a good plot. There are social issues, but it's not a divisive book. I cried in parts at some of the reflections of the two main characters. One of its themes if friendships lost and found. Enough said.

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    1. Plot is stronger than character in this one. However, I would not have gotten too involved in the whole story if I hadn't had some affection for the characters.

      Thanks for recommending Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. I have that on my Kindle and will definitely read it in 2014.

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  7. Thanks TracyK - must admit, the negatives that you point out are ones that would probably stop me wanting to buy this one but I thought your review was very balanced, so thanks very much for that.

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    1. Thank you, Sergio. I enjoyed this book but definitely not for everyone.

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  8. Hi, Tracy,
    I want to ask you if you felt that the novel was "fair" to the setting; that is, as far as culture, history [always in the background], and landscape, was the setting well represented?. Because you are originally from the South, I would favor your review over others, as far as your opinions about various aspects of the book goes.

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    1. This is a really hard question to answer, Judith. My family is in Alabama, and they live in a large urban area, and no one I have met in Alabama recently is at all like the types in this book. But I don't spend much time there. Mississippi doesn't have many big cities. Jackson is the largest and it is nowhere close to the size of Birmingham / Hoover metropolitan area in Alabama. I did not realize that. Maybe the culture is that different there. I just don't think that enough "normal" types were represented. Setting pretty well represented, I think. Culture? Yes, there is lots of hunting, fraternities and sororities and football are a big deal there (or at least were when I was younger).

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  9. This book was tempting but I think I am at a point where I own too many books as it is and just passed this one by so it was interesting to get your view from it. I read where you said it doesn't paint a fair picture of the debate on abortion. That would have bothered me and I'm like you in not being patient for or against. Sounds like a worthy read despite the perceived flaws. I would love to read more books set in the South. I recently finished Charles Willeford as you know who did a great job in capturing the attitudes of the people even though it takes place in the seedy world of cockfighting. I see Tom Frankin mentioned above as I scanned down, his Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is very well written but the storyline overall didn't impress me much (and I'm in the minority but that would be a great book for you to read/discuss whenever you have time).

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    1. *passionate for or against correction

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    2. Keishon, I know the problem with too many books. I wanted to push myself to read more about the South, and this was an interesting one to start with. I will read Willeford, soon I hope.

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  10. Very interesting and balanced review Tracy - with so many books on my shelves and out there, I need a really strong reason to add another, and I don't think this sounds like the one for me...

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    1. Thanks Moira. I can understand your reluctance to add another book to the stacks. I have just figured out that I want to read more books next year than I can get to, and there will be more that I discover. Alas.

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    2. The TBR piles keep reproducing like rabbits. Forget the TBR lists -- astronomical. Am now getting afraid to look at it. I keep adding to it, but it never seems to shrink.

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  11. TracyK.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and review The Last Clinic. This is the first book in the Darla Cavannah mystery series, and I’m very interested in learning how readers respond to my efforts.
    Again, thanks.
    Gary Gusick author at https://www.facebook.com/GaryGusickAuthor

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    1. Gary, Thanks for stopping by. I did enjoy the book and I want to read the next one. Very interested in seeing where it leads.

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    1. Me too, Teena. Looking forward to the next in the series.

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  13. I guess I'll read it. I like the issue and the location, having read few books set in the South, especially mysteries. The library doesn't have it, so I have to buy it.
    Abe Books may have it at a lower price; I always check there. Amazing the bargains.

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    1. Kathy, when you read, I hope you will let me know what you think about the book.

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  14. I can't find the book, except on Amazon on Kindle, which I don't have. So, maybe a paperback will pop up.

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    1. Kathy, it does seem like it came out in paperback but doesn't seem easy to find copies.

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