Book Review: The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club by Duncan Whitehead

The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking ClubThe Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club
Duncan Whitehead
Dog Ear Publishing, November 2012
ISBN 978-1-4575-1450-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Something is not quite right in the leafy Savannah neighborhood of Gordonston.

As the friends and fellow members of her afternoon cocktail club gather to mourn the death and lament the life of their neighbor, Thelma Miller, not all is what it seems.

As old friends vie for the attention of widower, Alderman and mayoral candidate Elliott, jealousies surface and friendships are strained. An old woman with a dark secret and an infamous uncle plots her revenge for a perceived wrong done over thirty years before, a once successful children’s writer with his own secret is haunted by memories of the past and aspiring model Kelly Hudd has just won the trip of a lifetime.

As secrets are revealed and history, both old and recent, unravel and an intertwined web of deceits and lies surfaces in the middle class neighborhood a killer lurks and is anyone really who they seem to be? A mysterious European gentleman in South America, a young Italian count parading the streets of Paris and a charitable and kind hearted nephew recently arrived from India add to the remarkable assortment of characters in this story of intrigue, deceit and revenge. What is the secret a recently retired accountant is trying to hide and just why did the former showgirl and attractive sixty two year old widow Carla Zipp really have plastic surgery?

As the plot thickens and the Georgia summer temperature rises we discover who is destined for an early-unmarked grave in the wooded park that centers the tree-lined avenues of Gordonston.

A mysterious organization with links to organized crime, a handsome fire fighter who can do no wrong and a trio of widows with deep hidden agendas compound a story of simplistic complexity. As twists and turns lead the reader to a conclusion that they will not see coming and a sucker punch ending that will leave readers breathless, the Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club’s top priority remains the need to chastise the culprit who refuses to ‘scoop’ after his dog walking sessions in their treasured park.

This is without a doubt one of the oddest crime fiction novels I’ve read. The pacing is very slow for about the first half of the book and the scenes shift constantly from one character to another. Savannah, one of the loveliest cities I’ve ever seen, is the setting but actually plays little part and the story could easily take place in any town with a similar southern ambience. The characters, primarily a small group of unattached women and a soon-to-be-unattached man, along with a pair of younger couples and an older man, are a bit run of the mill at first but, as the early part of the story unfolds, the reader begins to get a taste of what they might really be like under the surface. All in all, the first half is a slow read with not a whole lot to hold the reader’s attention and yet…

Suddenly, things begin to happen and this tale of murder becomes something like a comedy of manners with characters pointing mental fingers, jumping to conclusions and making very rash but determined decisions. The reader has to pay attention because the rapidly shifting scenes make it a little difficult at times to recognize the character whose thoughts we’re intercepting. The beauty of the plot is that we don’t know until the end who is going to be taken out of the picture, who is meant for that open grave waiting in the park where they all walk their dogs. Best of all is the final reveal so, if you’re a sneak peeker, DON’T DO IT! You’ll mess up the whole thing if you look at the end before you get there, trust me.

Mr. Whitehead is a clever writer and has a way with words.  Apparently, The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club is the first of a trilogy and I’m looking forward to seeing what the author has in store for us next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2013.