I highly recommend you start with “The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose,” by Susan Wittig Albert, the third in one of my very favorite cozy mystery series in print right now.
Albert, who also pens the wonderful China Bayles Mysteries, tells a story you’ll want to savor, word by beautifully written word. Set during The Depression in the small town of Darling, Ala., you will love the Darling Dahlias, a group of garden club ladies, who find themselves solving murder mysteries — when they aren’t planting their gardens or raising money to fix-up the group’s club house.
Darling will remind you of Chelsea. A town small enough where you can walk most anywhere, with a local grocery store and a farmers’ market “where neighbors gossip over the back fence.”
Set in the South in the 1930s, phone calls are made on party lines, radio shows and card playing are leisure activities, and kids splash at the local swimming hole or go fishing for fun.
This book will transport you back to an era where when times were tough, people kept a stiff upper lip and made the most of what they had. They tried to mind their own “beeswax,” be thrifty, and enjoy the simple things in life.
The Darling Dahlias truly believe “that there could be better days ahead — as long as people worked hard, had faith, and respected and cared for each other.”
Sentiments, I believe, still hold true today.
In this title, one of the Darling Dahlia’s own is accused of taking $15,000 from the county treasurer’s office — which, of course, she did not. But who did? And why are they trying to frame Verna Tidwell for the crime?
Dahlia President Liz Lacy and Verna’s best friend is hot on the trail of finding who is the sticky-fingered bandit and clearing her dear friend’s name.
So as the town readies for Confederate Day, (an Alabama state holiday marking the surrender of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnson to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman) and the unveiling of the Confederate Rose plantings (which, Dorothy Rogers, town librarian and Dahlia member will tell you is not a rose at all, rather a hibiscus), there’s another mystery afoot.
This one’s unraveled by a cat named Lucky. It involves a secret code that’s found embroidered on a pillow.
Enter the local newspaper editor, who investigates the strange code and discovers, well, I’m not going to give away all the good stuff.
You’ll have to read this charming, sweetly written book yourself to find out, and I promise, you’ll be glad you did.
And, when someone asks you what you’d like for Christmas this year, you can tell them the two previous titles in this terrific series — “The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree” and “The Darling Dahlias the Naked Ladies.”
In fact, if you haven’t read Albert’s China Bayles’ series, start at the beginning with “Thyme of Death” and enjoy all 22 titles. Each one is as good as the one before.
In both series, the characters are people you wish lived next door. And if you are a plant lover, Albert weaves all kinds of interesting gardening information into each title.
I cannot recommend these books highly enough. And, can’t wait for the next title, “The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star” to be published.