Daily Review: The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club by Duncan Whitehead
September 12, 2017
Part thriller, part drama, the multitude of questions hanging in the air make it a gripping page-turner.
Little is what it seems to be in a leafy Savannah neighborhood as members of an afternoon cocktail and dog walking club mourn a neighbor’s death. Jealousies surface when friends vie for the widower running for mayor. An old woman with an infamous uncle plots to avenge a wrong. Memories haunt a once successful children’s writer. And a model has won the trip of a lifetime.
But a killer lurks and secrets unfold, as does a web of deceit. Is anyone really who he or she seems to be? A mysterious South American, a young Italian count, and a charitable nephew add suspicion and intrigue, as do an enigmatic organization linked to organized crime, a handsome firefighter, and three widows with hidden agendas. What’s a retired accountant’s secret, and why did a former showgirl really have plastic surgery?
The plot thickens, the Georgia temperature rises, and someone is destined for an early unmarked grave. The truth contorts to a climax that leaves readers breathless.
This was without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve encountered in the last year. Duncan Whitehead proved to be a Master of surprise twists and turns and making the bizarre, believable. This engaging tale of a diverse ensemble of neighbors in what seems to be a sedate, upscale neighborhood evolves into an ending that is totally unpredicted.
The first pages let you know right upfront that someone will meet a grim and unexpected demise but the “who” and the “why” elude you. I mean, how can anything truly sinister be unfolding in the quintessentially quaint and quirky coastal city of Savannah, Georgia? You soon find out jealously, deception, greed and a myriad of evil intentions lurk behind harmless looking closed doors and fake faces.
Skillfully written and full of intrigue. If you like mysteries that keep you guessing and then throw you a curve at the very end, you’ll love this – as I did!
By Mary Fan
The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club opens on a lovely morning in Savannah, Georgia, with your friendly neighborhood contract killer preparing to execute his latest job. Rewind the clock by about a week. The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club, a group of older women with a shared fondness for canines and cocktails, sigh about the impending death of one of their own. Thelma is on the verge of succumbing to cancer.
Two of the ladies, former Vegas showgirl Carla and wholesome housewife Cindy, already have their eye on Thelma’s soon-to-be widower, mayoral candidate Elliott. We are also introduced to the club’s queen bee, an eighty-something-year-old named Heidi, and to several of their neighbors, including Kelly and Tom–a young couple with Hollywood good looks–and newlyweds Veronica and Doug. And then there’s the neighborhood villain: an old man who fails to clean up after his dog during his walks in the park.
Each member of this idyllic suburban neighborhood harbors a dirty little secret. Or, if they don’t at the beginning of the novel, they do by the end. The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club follows each member of the community through their intertwining lives. Picture perfect on the outside, not so much behind closed doors. One of them is the contract killer’s victim, and one of them the employer. But who? And why? With everything that’s going on in Gordonston, everyone is fair game.
Whitehead successfully employs the third person omniscient perspective in his novel to give the reader insights into each character’s thoughts and motivations, often within one scene. In an era where first person and limited third are in fashion, using the omniscient voice is a daring yet highly effective move.
Although Whitehead writes with a distinctive lilt, the narrator for the most part seems invisible, a mere camera through which the reader watches the characters, none of whom is exactly what they appear. Whitehead wastes no words, somehow keeping the prose fluid and tight at the same time. As a result, the pages fly by while at the same time allowing a reader to become immersed in the language and descriptions. Honestly, this book contains some of the finest examples of the omniscient voice I’ve seen in contemporary literature.
Whitehead seamlessly integrates the various intertwining storylines. The cast is large, yet each character is so unique that it’s easy to keep track of who is who. Whitehead deftly guides the reader through the secrets, mysteries, and multiple plots, making The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club an easy, relaxing read. There is so much going on, and yet everything feels straightforward with the way Whitehead tells it.
In addition to his plotting abilities and knack for creating memorable characters, Whitehead also possesses a real talent for descriptions. It’s easy to picture the locations described in the novel, be it a town in Argentina or the luxuries of Paris. His writing style is mesmerizing, hypnotic even, and it’s easy to get lost in the locations and the lives of the characters. My one criticism would be that he doesn’t always let the reader know where in the timeline they are (for instance, there’s no indication that the first chapter, with the hit man, actually takes place after the bulk of the book until you get close to the end).
The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club is a garden of irony, a brilliant suburban satire on par with the popular American TV show Desperate Housewives. Part thriller, part drama, the multitude of questions hanging in the air make it a gripping page-turner, especially toward the second half, where the plot really thickens. It’s a relatively short book, and I ended up reading the whole thing in a single day. With all the juicy details and shocking revelations, I just couldn’t put it down.
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