by Gary Gusick
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
I have to hand it to the author of The Last Clinic for basing the plot around a controversial topic. I am doubly impressed that Mr. Cusick is able to write such a good thriller without getting bogged down in the issue of right to life vs. Pro-choice and being fairly balanced in his approach. Actually, this mystery isn't so much about abortion rights as it is about the price of extremism. Or it is simply a tight and witty mystery that keeps your attention to the end. Take your pick. Or take both.
Popular anti-abortion preacher, Jimmy Aldridge, is gunned down while setting up his protest signs in front of one of the last abortion clinics in Jackson, Mississippi. Of course the main suspect is good looking clinic doctor Nicoletti and there are plenty of people who want to nail the murder on him. But when investigator Darla Cavannah finds $3000 in small bills inside the reverend's car, she suspects there may be another suspect and another motive.
There are a lot of nice twists and turns in this tale but it is the characters that really made this a superior mystery. Darla is a transplanted northerner whose deceased but well-respected husband makes her a little less of a stranger in this slightly nepotistic Mississippi city. Her sheriff friend Shelby is a delightfully charismatic redneck. In fact, most of the characters in this novel are well-written and full of eccentricities that endear them to the reader. For that matter, Jackson, Miss. is practically a character in the book as Cusick writes about it with such flair. It is not surprising to find that Jackson is Cusick's real-life hometown. There is only one person in the book that seems a bit forced and that is a bungling Elvis impersonating police officer but he does make for good comic relief.
As far as the plot goes, this is one of the few mysteries that had me guessing to the very end. I like it when a who-dunnit has many suspects and all of them seem plausible...including the one that actually "dunnit". There is just the right amount of seriousness and wit to keep this story entertaining. This is an easy recommendation for all mystery fans. I understand this is Gary Cusick's debut novel. Very promising indeed.
Method Acquired: Netgalley