Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club

Written by Julian Leatherdale
Review by Christine Childs

No one could accuse Julian Leatherdale of confining himself to a particular historical period of New South Wales (Australian) history. His debut novel, Palace of Tears, was set in 1914, followed by The Opal Dragonfly in the 1850s. His latest novel, Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club, concerns Sydney in 1932. It is set in the notorious Kings Cross area during a time of complex class tensions and political unrest.

Joan is a women’s magazine reviewer by day and crime writer by night. She lives in a run-down apartment building in Kings Cross with a diverse collection of bohemian characters and prostitutes. When one of her fellow residents is murdered, Joan finds herself investigating what happened and writing it into her crime novel, whilst trying to keep one step ahead of the police. Through Joan we are taken on a strange and decadent journey that includes drugs, orgies and pagan cults.

We usually associate the early 1930s with the Great Depression, poverty and unemployment. Leatherdale exposes us to a violent and dangerous world of excessive privilege, power and promiscuity, where everyone has a secret and nobody is above suspicion, including our protagonist, Joan.