The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber TreeLarge Print - 2010
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Author Susan Wittig Albert is probably best-known for her China Bayles “Thyme” mysteries, which are set in Pecan Springs, Texas, or the cozy “Cottage Tale” mysteries featuring Beatrice Potter. Now she has come out with a third series, set in Darling, Alabama in the 1930’s, featuring a set of gardening enthusiasts known as the Darling Dahlias. Each lady has her own peculiarities and talents, and when it comes to gossip, no one cultivates the grapevine like they do. This first novel stars three ladies in particular: Elizabeth “Lizzy” Lacy, secretary to a lawyer; Ophelia Snow, the mayor’s wife; and Verna Tidwell, a clerk in the county’s probate office. At this time of financial crisis in the country, the Dahlias face some crises of their own – there is an escaped convict on the loose, one of their members is accused of embezzling from the local bank, one faces the possibility of her husband’s infidelity, and one of their friends is involved in a fatal accident – or was it murder? While the ladies are treated as mere women by their menfolk (this is the 1930’s), when they pull together the Dahlias find that their various jobs and connections put them in a unique position to gather information better than the local sheriff’s office. To add to the excitement, Bessie Bloodworth bags a local boogyman, leading to the discovery of a legendary Civil War era treasure – still more recent in the locals’ minds than the Great War. Author Susan Wittig Albert adds quaint touches to all her novels (like recipes in the back from her characters), and this one is no exception. The historical details are accurate, down to the vintage-sounding chapter titles (“The Dahlias Gather at Beulah’s Beauty Bower”) - like those from that exciting new mystery series Verna has discovered (Nancy Drew). There is a “Makin’ Do” list from the characters on the best depression-era ways to stretch a dollar, and references to Southern epicurean delights like “Euphoria’s Peanut Butter Meringue Pie” – with the recipe thoughtfully provided, of course. Looking forward to the next Dahlia adventure already!
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