The Last Clinic by Gary Gusick (Darla Cavannah Mystery #1)

The Last Clinic by Gary Gusick (the first in the Darla Cavannah Mystery series) is one of the best books that I’ve read this year coming from an author who doesn’t have too many books under his belt.

When I was perusing last week the virtual bookshelf at NetGalley for something new to read, this title caught my attention, not in the least because it is the first book in a mystery series. I hate to read a book that is part of a series where I haven’t read the previous books, and I was glad to see that I didn’t have to catch up with any earlier ones before starting to read this novel.

Now granted, another reason why I picked this book was because of the comparison with Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner, two of my most favorite mystery authors ever. I mean can a new author really compare to two shining stars of the mystery genre? That’s what I set myself to find out.

The story is about Darla Cavannah, a detective with the Jackson police department who is is on a self-imposed exile from work after her husband Hugh, the famous local football player, died in a car crash some six months ago. Shelby Mitchell, the sheriff (a really cool guy if I ever saw one) requests her return to duty due to the nature of the crime which seems to be right up Darla’s alley.

She is a hate crime specialist and solving this particular crime needs her expertise because it seems that the victim, beloved reverend Jimmy Aldridge, was indeed shot dead because of his views (and actions) on abortion. He used to stand in front of the abortion clinic every single morning protesting against the clinic and its staff, harassing them even. And this is the very place he was found dead one early morning.

Pretty much everyone in the community (including Tommy Reyland, the mayor’s son who is a police officer as well and an Elvis impersonator in his spare time) believes that the clinic doctor, Stephen Nicoletti, is the killer. Tommy is dead set to bringing Stephen to justice.

Suffice to say that Darla does come back to work and she even gets back her old enthusiasm in solving a crime which seems to be more and more unusual as the story progresses. In fact it looks like there is more than one case to solve, with two separate threads running parallel and even intersecting each other, both having at their core the beloved reverend Jimmy Aldridge, who might not be the very person everyone, including his wife, believes him to be.

The plot was really engaging and while it was not exactly a nail biting suspense, it was not a cozy either. There were lots of twists and turns and the story had just enough elements of action, description and some cool humor to make it a read that you couldn’t put down once you started reading.

I loved all the main characters in the novel. Darla is a great independent woman who stands strongly on her own feet even when the whole South considers her an outsider, a “yankee”, and accepts her just because of her having been married to the popular athlete. The sheriff is a cool boss who sides with Darla against the world and trusts her judgement even when everything points to the (wrong) suspect. I had a few chuckles when reading some of his lines, in fact I had a few chuckles when reading the entire book. The Elvis guy is annoying but still likable (if you overlook many, many things). Stephen, the doctor, is another awesome character which could have been tended to a bit more.

Finally Uther (not Luther) is a guy who I’d really love to see more of in the next novel. And I hope he won’t get transferred to the FBI as if you really think about it, his clues and patterns found were the ones that led to solving both cases. He is the geek that every police station desperately needs to keep crime at bay.

The only thing I really felt lacking in this book was the budding romance between Darla and (I can’t tell you who, else I’ll spoil it for you). I wish the relationship were a bit more developed, a bit more fleshed out – and at the end things just jumped way too fast to a future point in time. I felt a tiny disconnect there and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Reading that last chapter I kind of felt that this is in fact a standalone novel, not part of a series – I hope I was wrong.

However despite this one small “flaw” I enjoyed this book for what it was – a fun mystery to be read in one or two sittings, with just enough suspense, romance and humor to keep it engaging right to the end.

I can’t wait to read the second book in the series and to explore more the fun interaction between Darla and her crazy Elvis-style colleague who is just as adorable as he is useless at his job. All characters, good and bad are very credible and you can almost imagine being there right among them, in that strange Southern judgmental (and yet likable) part of the world.

To learn more or order a copy, visit Amazon


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  1. This look like a mystery book I’d like to read! Thanks for the review. Who knows, in the next series the relationship between Darla and the man will take a step further?

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