Deborah Ideiosepius's Reviews > Death in the Ladies' Goddess Club

Death in the Ladies' Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale
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This was a beautifully written, thoroughly engrossing novel. Set in Sydney, mostly in Kings Cross, in 1932 this is one of the most rounded and convincing historical settings that I have ever encountered for the time period in Sydney.

The Cross and it's bohemian lifestyle in the 1930's flourished beside a very conservative middle class and this becomes the perfect setting for Joan finding her neighbour murdered. Joan starts investigating the case and incorporating it into her novel, trying to prove her worth as a crime writer despite the fact that women in the 30's 'can't write crime'. One of Joan's heroes is Sergeant Lillian Armfield, a woman investigating crime with the NSW police, but Joan never expected to be investigated by the redoubtable Sergeant herself.

We follow Joan as she rubs shoulders with the crime and bohemian set of Kings Cross in the 30's, but there is a strange twist in that her wealthy aunt has an all women club, what has this mysterious club to do with the murders? Joan is determined to find out if there is a link and to do that she must join the club.

The author does the most spectacular job of building the 1930's in Sydney, the attention to actual events is good, like the Harbour Bridge being under construction while characters take the ferry over the harbour and muse on the fact that soon the ferry will stop, this is then followed with a scene at the opening of the bridge. Then there are small personal details to round it out, like descriptions of streets and houses of Kings Cross, theater on the North shore, a multitude of tiny details that are so well integrated into the story that setting becomes a skillful, three dimensional entity that is convincing and delightful to read.

The characters are convincing, finely drawn and never anachronistic. This is really impressive, because I prefer likable characters but I get annoyed by anachronisms, this book manages to satisfy by creating characters that are either likable or at least relatable while never succumbing to the temptation to make them 'modern'. Our main narrator is Joan, who wants to be an crime author and has left her comfortable middle class home, with parents who just want her to get married and have a family, in order to work at a publishers and live a bohemian lifestyle, sharing a flat with another woman writer. I really enjoyed Joan, her boyfriend Hugh and all the other characters that played a part in this thoroughly impressive book.

I found the reading experience kind of ravishing, I enjoyed every page I read, I could see the scenes as they were described and I wanted more when it was finished - while still finding the ending very satisfying. Speaking of the ending, I never saw that coming! About halfway through reading I thought I had a handle on what would happen in the end but at the last moment the novel threw in the completely unexpected! And then? Then it turned itself all around and made it all different. One of the more unexpected endings to any crime novel I have encountered in ages.

I have never read anything by this author before, but I might have to go off and read more.

Many thanks to Allen & Unwin for this Advance Reading Copy, in return for an honest review.
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Reading Progress

January 28, 2020 – Shelved
January 28, 2020 – Shelved as: acquired-as-yet-unread
February 14, 2020 – Started Reading
February 17, 2020 –
page 270
February 24, 2020 – Shelved as: 2020-reading-challenge
February 24, 2020 – Shelved as: arc
February 24, 2020 – Shelved as: australian-authors
February 24, 2020 – Shelved as: australiana
February 24, 2020 – Shelved as: crime-fiction
February 24, 2020 – Shelved as: historic-fiction
February 24, 2020 – Shelved as: i-own
February 24, 2020 – Shelved as: wordpress
February 24, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Alex (new)

Alex Cantone Sounds good. Thanks for the recommendation.

message 2: by Tundra (new)

Tundra A lovely review Deborah. I’m not sure if you are aware that Julian Leatherdale is gravely ill at the moment. His partner/wife is crowd funding to try and raise money for therapy that is not currently available in Australia ( I think/hope my facts are correct). I’ve read two of his previous books and they have the same attention to historical detail and sense of place that you describe here.

Deborah Ideiosepius Tundra wrote: "A lovely review Deborah. I’m not sure if you are aware that Julian Leatherdale is gravely ill at the moment. His partner/wife is crowd funding to try and raise money for therapy that is not current..."

I was not, that is a great pity.

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