The Last Clinic by Gary Gusick

the last clinicWell-plotted Southern mystery…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

When pro-life protestor Reverend Jimmy Aldridge is gunned down outside a women’s health clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, Darla Cavannah has to team up with fellow detective and Elvis-impersonator Tommy Reylander, the worst cop in the department. Tommy is strongly pro-life and a member of Rev. Aldridge’s church, and he’s convinced that the clinic’s doctor Stephen Nicoletti is guilty. Darla suspects there may be more to it than that, especially when $3,000 is found in Aldridge’s car – and even more especially when she falls for Dr Nicoletti at first sight.

There’s a lot to like about this book. Darla’s character is well developed – having moved to Jackson with her husband, who’s now dead, she is something of an outsider in this close-knit Southern community, though with some good friends who are able to give her the lowdown on the main suspects. Darla is still coming to terms with the death of her husband who, as a pro-footballer, was a local hero. The plot has several different strands and is complex enough to keep the reader guessing. It’s well written and, although the subject matter is pretty strong, there’s some humour to keep the tone fairly light. The other people in the police department play secondary roles to Darla, but both her boss Shelby and geeky IT specialist Uther are well-drawn and likeable characters.

Gary Gusick
Gary Gusick

I feel there are some problems with it however – perhaps because like Darla I’m not part of that community. All the pro-lifers are somewhat caricatured as ignorant rednecks or religious fanatics, while the pro-choice characters are intelligent and likeable, and clearly the ones we are meant to sympathise with. It all feels a bit too clear-cut and simplistic to be realistic, and the lack of nuance mean that what could have been an interesting look at the debate around abortion is somewhat side-stepped. Then there’s Darla’s attraction to Stephen, which simply didn’t ring true to me – it all happens too quickly and there’s no feeling of them getting to know each other.

Otherwise, though, I enjoyed Darla’s character and thought the plotting was strong and interesting. Since it’s billed as ‘A Darla Cavannah Mystery’ I assume it’s to be the first in a series, and on the basis of this one I’d certainly be interested enough to read the next. Recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House.

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44 thoughts on “The Last Clinic by Gary Gusick

    • I just assume all Southerners talk like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind…which works OK for the women but not so well for the men.

      I don’t think he said – but he may have done. It was before I became such a knowledgeable football fan. 😉


        • Scarlett with a throat infection, then? (Totally! But somehow made worse by the way Scarlett drawled it – Oh, Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaashley!

          Thank goodness! Does that mean I never have to watch it again? 😉


            • What little fly? (And you say you don’t understand me!)

              😆 I don’t wish to be rude, but couldn’t I have a new favourite player who looks just slightly more like Rafa and slightly less like Hagrid?


            • Poor Ashley! As if being loved by Scarlett and married to the most boring woman in the history of the universe wasn’t bad enough!

              Hagrid is the giant in HP – how is it even remotely possible you don’t know that? Have you been living on the Lord of the Flies island for the last twenty years? A nose tackle?? 😆 You Americans keep me eternally amused with your quaint little language…


            • Most boring! Melanie was the best!!! Way better than Scarlett.

              Well, I’ve never read the books or watched the movies. I honestly thought it was a Norse god or something like that.

              That’s one I didn’t come up with.


            • No way!! Dull as ditchwater…not a wicked bone in her body. And talking of bones, she really needed beating over the head with her own femur!

              You still haven’t told me what you’ve got against HP – I’m not talking to you again till you tell me. (Did I just hear a sigh of relief?)

              Pity! It has a Punchy ring to it somehow…


            • She was very sweet! Too sweet. A lovely character.

              😆 Definitely not a sigh! You know the professor loves having speaks with you. I fear I’m the one who talks too much, though! (I’ll have to tell you about HP sometime.)

              It does. So does Wilfork.


            • Oh, you’d get tired of someone who was sweet all the time! Whereas Scarlett was gloriously wicked! And so skilled at turning curtains into frocks – you never know when that could come in handy.

              The Professor never talks too much! In fact, on the subject of HP, he talks too LITTLE!! (Aaaaaaaaarghhhhhhh!) I may have to hit the Professor over the head with HP’s wand which will not only turn him into a toad but will also dent his top hat!!

              😆 It does! I’d love to see Manly-Man’s face if Mr Wilfork turned up in the PL…Vince wouldn’t have to throw his wife at the bathtub, he could throw the bathtub at the wife!


            • I don’t think the professor would…. (Scarlett, you see, needed a beating.)

              You have his wand? That’s rather neatio. (I think it would be better explained in person.)

              😆 But doesn’t he have a sweet face?


            • OK, dear Prof, I’ll be super-sweet to you from now on, and we’ll just see how long it is before you’re pleading for some wickedness…

              Yes, but I’d never use it – I’m too sweet. In fact, I’ll break it to make sure it can never be used again, and give Harry a kindly little talking-to. (Hmm…that could be difficult…)

              Now don’t tempt me to be wicked! 😉


            • You’re right, dearest Prof…but then you always are. Partly it’s your natural masculine superiority and partly your exceptional intellect. Please may I warm your slippers before the fire now and help you light your pipe?

              a) I don’t know. b) Has he got one? c) Why? (Well, I suppose I could travel over to the States and hunt you down…but it seems a bit excessive somehow.)

              My new destiny is to be sweet to dear C-W-W – how am I doing? (It’s a struggle…)


            • Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn the slippers, and damn the…fire. (I couldn’t resist.) While you are speaking the truth–please give me the evil FEF back!!! I can’t take it.

              You tell me! The professor has no idea about the matter. (It is. When I pass through Scotland on tour, we’ll meet. 😉 )

              😆 I can tell! Every so often something mean slips in.


            • 😯 😯 😯 and 😆 😆 😆 I’ve finally made the Professor’s steely self-control collapse!! This may be the proudest day of my life!! I’m so glad you want the evil me back though – I was getting scared I might be stuck being sweet forever, and that’s a fate too awful to contemplate!

              Then WHY did the Professor ask?? (But I do want to know…)

              😡 I was trying really hard too – but somehow the opportunites for meanness just kept turning up…


            • So sorry! Couldn’t resist. 😆 But since I was quoting a movie, it can’t be held against me! Yes, FEF is better evil–which means she’s sweet. Glaswegian stuff. No wonder I think sweet is wicked!

              I bet it’s Eli. (Know what?)

              Maybe that’s a good thing.


            • 😆 I so want to know what film includes the line ‘Damn the slippers’…Ah, now you’re beginning to get the whole Glaswegian thing! You’ll be eating haggis before long…and deep-fried Mars Bars.

              I bet it’s Hamish. (Aaaaaaaaaaarghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!)

              Well, with you around, I should never run short of opportunities… 😉


            • I feel so wickedly, wickedly bad now. You should beep it out. It’s from My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison. You remind me of Eliza, and then Rex says that.

              The professor would love to have a deep-fried Mars Bar. What is Mars exactly?

              We’ll never know. (I really don’t know what you’re getting on about.)

              I know you hate me.


            • So you should! I’m shocked! What a bad influence you are on me – BUS may not let me speak to you anymore if she finds out! 😉

              Now you mention it, I do vaguely remember that scene. I’m very proud to be compared to liza – she’s 😎 (and gorgeous, of course).

              It’s a planet in the solar system.

              You could write to JK and ask. (HP! HP!! HP!!!!!!!)

              Nonsense! Even when I have an urgent desire (like now) to beat you over the head with your own femur, it should be taken as an indication of sincere affection…


            • *hangs head* Beep it out!

              But didn’t sing her parts. What a pity.

              That’s mean! It’s like me poking fun at you for not knowing what a cannoli is!

              She hates me. I think she still holds a grudge. (I’ll tell you one day! Can’t you be patient?)

              Well, the professor won’t be fooled. I carry grenades–like the joker.


            • 😆 No!

              Maybe it would have been more of a pity if she did!

              Ooh, I’ve always wanted to know what cannoli is! OK, a Mars Bar is a chocolate bar with a nougat and caramel filling.

              😯 Why? What did you do? (Have I ever struck you as the patient type?)

              Is C-W-W threatening to kill FF? 😡


            • Rats.

              😆 Very true…

              Basically a cannoli is an Italian pastry filled with sweet ricotta cheese. The professor wants a Mars Bar.

              The professor was wicked. (No…)

              I might self explode. 🙂


            • Hmm…sweet cheese…not sure whether that appeals much. I’ve added Mars Bars to the list of things to get a stock of for the next time the Prof’s passing thorugh Scotland. Cashews, cherry jam, cherry tea, haggis and Mars Bars…it should be a lovely meal.

              You’re lucky she didn’t set Hermione on you then. (Well, then…)

              Yucketh! Think of the mess!


            • Maybe…but I was hoping it was something to do with ice cream…

              And neeps…

              I’m not telling you – you’ll just have to read H to find out. (The power to get the Professor to talk about something he doesn’t want to is beyond the grasp of mere mortals, I fear… 😦 )

              😆 Oh no, I’d be devastated too of course…but better to be devasted without mess than with…


            • Yes, me too. That’s my complaint against the dadblame things.

              What tis it?

              Well, whoever he is, he must be really powerful and scary. Imagine an HP character defeating the mighty professor! (I’ll tell you–one day!)



            • Maybe we should invent a new one? With ice-cream, choc’n’cherry sauce, and hundreds and thousands…

              Mashed turnips…yum! Or maybe yucketh!

              He’s a girl. Hermione, not the Professor! So obviously she’d win. (Tell me now!!!!!!)



            • The Italians would kill us…brutally. You know, the godfather and all that junk.

              I’m leaning towards Yucketh, but I don’t know for sure.

              It’s a girl? With an orc’s name? What a wonder. A miraculous wonder. (I can’t. The professor can’t write well, so I couldn’t quite tell you right.)


            • Oh, we wouldn’t be scared of the Mafia. We could just splat them with any left over ice-cream.

              It can be fairly yummy, depending on mood…

              Ha! You wouldn’t dare say that to her face! She’d turn you into a toad! (That is the worst and most unbelievable excuse the Professor has come up with yet…Tchah!)


  1. FictionFan – Oh, I give Gusick a lot of credit for addressing that very difficult topic. And it sounds as though the story is well-plotted and has a solid sense of place. That matters to me too. But you’re right; part of what makes that topic controversial is that there are no easy answers. It’ll be interesting to see whether there’s richer character development as the series goes on.


    • Sorry! 😉 But I’ve been good recently and I doubt if you’ll be too keen on anything else this week…at least, if I’m right in thinking you’ve already read the Herman Scottish Enlightenment thing…


  2. I think the subject matter would annoy me too much to try this. The Bears get really upset when I start shouting at a book, possibly because they know that there’s a fair chance that the next thing will be the throwing of the book and they are going to have to go into ducking mode.


    • Sadly, or happily depending how you look at it, I don’t think it was discussed in enough depth to get you riled. It seemed a strange decision to pick such an emotive, divisive subject and then not really deal with it in any substantive way…the Bears would have been safe!


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