2020 Reviews · crime · historical fiction · mystery · new release

New Release Book Review: Death in the Ladies Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale

Title: Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Clubdeath in the ladies goddess club

Author: Julian Leatherdale

Published: March 3rd 2020

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Pages: 400

Genres: Fiction, Crime, Historical, Mystery

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 5 stars

Murder and blackmail, family drama and love, all set within the shady underbelly of 1930s Kings Cross and its glamorous fringe.

‘Crime’s not a woman’s business, Joanie. It’s not some bloody game.’

In the murky world of Kings Cross in 1932, aspiring crime writer Joan Linderman and her friend and flatmate Bernice Becker live the wild bohemian life, a carnival of parties and fancy-dress artists’ balls.

One Saturday night, Joan is thrown headfirst into a real crime when she finds Ellie, her neighbour, murdered. To prove her worth as a crime writer and bring Ellie’s killer to justice, Joan secretly investigates the case in the footsteps of Sergeant Lillian Armfield.

But as Joan digs deeper, her list of suspects grows from the luxury apartment blocks of Sydney’s rich to the brothels and nightclubs of the Cross’s underclass.

Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club is a riveting noir crime thriller with more surprises than even novelist Joan bargained for: blackmail, kidnapping, drug-peddling, a pagan sex cult, undercover cops, and a shocking confession.

From the shadows of bohemian and underworld Kings Cross, who will emerge to tell the real story?


‘But tomorrow night a door would open that not even the talented Lillian Armfield had managed to peek behind; a door into a world of intrigue and mystery, power and desire: the entrance to the secret world of the Ladies’ Goddess Club.’

Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club is an opulent historical odyssey into our nation’s past. Encompassing murder, ambition, blackmail, double crossings, love, lust, trauma and family relations, Julian Leatherdale’s latest is a truly absorbing novel.  Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club reminds us of a glamorous, as well as a dangerous age in our country’s historical fabric.

Julian Leatherdale opens up the history books and transports us to an era of crime, deadly cat and mouse games and societal tensions. 1930s Sydney comes alive in Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club, as Leatherdale relays a time in our not too distant past when razor gangs ruled the streets, class divisions were prevalent, political movements were gaining momentum and Australians were indulging in many underground vices.  For the lead of this tale, Joan Linderman, the murder of her neighbour sees this aspiring sleuth begin her own crime investigation. Joan’s efforts lead her on a trail that is surprising, but also dangerous. Faced with a number of shocking obstacles along the way from deadly mobsters, to razor gangs, erotic parties, shady cops, drug deals, kidnapping, underground clubs and communist spies, Joan is exposed to it all in her quest to bring her friend’s murderer to justice.

Julian Leatherdale is a trusted voice in the category of Australian historical fiction. Leatherdale’s stories are rich and beautifully layered masterpieces that reflect the author’s passion for his craft, as well as his thorough approach to his research. I implore all readers of Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club to take the time to peruse the seven page sources spread at the back of this book. It is fascinating and impressive. It definitely encouraged me to look conduct some further reading on a number of areas covered in this book.

Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club is the third novel I have read by this enthralling novelist. It seems like very book I have touched by Julian Leatherdale I have loved. Each book has its own unique stamp and is carefully realised. For me personally, Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club was a book I admired for the vivid recreation of the historical setting. Although this was a dangerous time filled with gangs, mobsters, underhanded cops, blackmail, kidnapping and murder, I still felt the pull of wanting to step back in time and visit this era firsthand. I lapped up the references to Sydney’s stunning architecture, the process of building the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, the art world, the bohemian lifestyle and the grassroots descriptions of daily life during this period. Equally fascinating was the focus on the political feelings of the time, which I had little knowledge of prior to this novel. The influence of communism and the dreadful feelings experienced by the returned soldiers, who were suffering mentally as well as physically, is portrayed with strong insight.

At its core, Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club is a murder mystery novel revolving around Joan, a firecracker, who was clearly ahead of her time. I loved Joan’s profession as a writer and her aspirations to become a crime novelist really added an extra flourish to this novel. I liked how Leatherdale plunged his characters deep in a world of unknowns, especially with the focus on the underground clubs, which allows us to see how the community was pushing the boundaries in areas such as sex and drugs. Leatherdale pits his lead and supporting cast in colourful, as well as risky situations. There were many unexpected jolts in this novel that worked really well for me personally. I didn’t see the ending coming at all, it wasn’t predictable and I was completely absorbed in the final quarter of the book, it was utterly exhilarating. I didn’t want this one to end!

There is so much more that could be said and deconstructed about Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club, from the famous figures in both the art community and police world that pop up (I loved Lillian Armfield). It is almost worth having a search engine up next to you as you read Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club, it will inspire you to do some further integration into the life and times of many of the real life players mentioned in Leatherdale’s novel. Personally, I was touched by the love element in this book with leads Joan and Hugh, along with the family drama that plays out involving Joan’s extended family fold.

Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club is a rollicking passage into a decadent, as well as perilous time in Australia’s past. Every Julian Leatherdale book I have encountered has been golden and Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club is no exception. Absolutely sparkling!

Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale was published on March 3rd 2020 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club, Julian Leatherdale, visit here.

*I wish to thank Allen & Unwin for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.


12 thoughts on “New Release Book Review: Death in the Ladies Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale

  1. I don’t know if it’s just my mood at the moment, but this is definitely one I’m struggling with I’ve been trying to get through it for over a month. I really enjoyed the first half, but am struggling with the second. I’ve only got 80 pages to go, but haven’t picked it up for a week as it’s list my interest. I’m glad you loved it so much though, it was one I really wanted to love, and at the beginning thought I would.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can understand, some books due to my mood have resulted in a uphill struggle. I’ve hard the new Karen Brooks one on the go for some time. so I can completely relate. I can say that the last quarter of the book is breathtaking, I could’;t turn my eyes away, so if you feel you are ready you in in for an amazing race to the close of this book. Do give it chance when you are ready x

      Did you know Julian passed away yesterday? I’m absolutely heartbroken.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, I saw that, very sad. I will try and get in the right headspace to finish it Sunday, I hate having books nearly but not quite finished and if you say the last bit is fabulous, then I’d better finish it. Yes my headspace wasn’t ready for Karen Brooks new one either, I’ve tried twice, but I haven’t gotten far at all, maybe one chapter lol. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it once I can get into it.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, 5 stars! I must find his books as they do sound amazing. I’m looking for some great reads set in that era and this one sounds ideal. He died of liver cancer, so sad and he was only 59, same age as Steven. Bloody cancer!

    Liked by 1 person

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