Duncan Whitehead’s The Gordonston Ladies Ladies Dog Walking Club starts out innocently, with a group of seemingly sweet old Southern ladies who enjoy cocktails in the park.
Their friend Thelma is dying of cancer, and the moment she passes a rivalry seems to develop among two of the ladies around her surviving husband. A running joke develops around this, and fortunately, Whitehead doesn’t carry it too far. What follows is a series of increasingly weird turns, involving, among other things, a guy who will not clean up after his dog, an international assassination squad, a con artist, Hitler’s skills as a children’s storyteller, and some very weird and ugly sides of humanity. Not unlike the farcical pseudo-pulp of fellow Southerner Carl Hiaasen, the story both is a functional noir and also a really weird tribute/sendup of the genre.
There are twists in Gordonston Ladies that are genuinely surprising, others less so. The whole thing revolves around astronomical coincidences and very broad and cartoonish characterizations, and if you’re on board with all of that, you should have a fairly good time. Much of the humor is genuinely appreciable, and it’s fun watching all the silly cartoon characters that populate this world do horrible things to one another.
The book does take a while to get going, however – a lengthy section that takes place in Paris, and takes a while to pay off, comes to mind – and the writing is not always the most polished and impeccable of machines. Still, it is what it is: a reasonably screwball, irony-drenched thriller-parody, heavily plot-driven, full of twists and turns, and appropriately zany.
Reviewed by Charles Baker for IndieReader