The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies Hardcover – Jul 5 2011
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“Colorful characters and evocative period details will keep cozy fans absorbed.”—Publishers Weekly
“As always in any Susan Wittig Albert’s series including this one, the reader feels transplanted in time and place as the meticulous interwoven tidbits bring to life late 1930.”—The Mystery Gazette
About the Author
Susan Wittig Albert grew up on a farm in Illinois and earned her Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. A former professor of English and a university administrator and vice president, she is the author of the China Bayles Mysteries, the Darling Dahlias Mysteries, and the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. Some of her recent titles include Widow’s Tears, Cat’s Claw, The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose, and The Tale of Castle Cottage. She and her husband, Bill, coauthor a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries under the name Robin Paige, which includes such titles as Death at Glamis Castle and Death at Whitechapel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There are two newcomers in town, Nona Jean Jamison and her reclusive friend Miss Lake, and rumors about the two ladies are flying around the town. Verna is convinced she had seen the two women years earlier performing in scanty costumes in New York's Ziegfield Frolic. Nona Jean denies this, but when she cuts and dies her beautiful platinum hair a subdued brown, Liz, Verna, and some of the other Dahlias suspect Nona a/k/a "Lorelei LaMotte" may be hiding much more than a former occupation as a dancer. The Dahlias are determined to find out the truth in order to keep the mysterious ladies, as well as the rest of the town, out of danger.
This book is the second in the "Darling Dahlias" series. The book has a lot of different characters, but there is a list and brief description of all thirteen members of the Dahlias Garden Club at the beginning of the book. The character list quickly introduces the majority of the characters to new readers. This book focuses on Liz, Verna, Bessie, and Myra May and each are very likeable, especially Liz. I also like the character of Beulah Trivette, who is the one who cuts and colors Nona's hair and wish she would have played more of a role in the book. Verna, Beulah, Myra Lee, and many of the characters are multi-dimensional with enough unknowns to create interest for future installments. Unfortunately, in the case of a few other characters, such as the gossipy Leona Ruth and Liz's overbearing mother, what you see is what you get. Some colorful characters are needed to make a book interesting, but the flighty Leona and the manipulative Mrs. Lacy are both annoying rather than quirky. The characters do serve their purpose in creating conflict, though, and there is a satisfying scene in which Mrs. Lacy is thankfully put in her place.
The setting in 1930 and historical details about the era, including expressions used by the characters, their customs, and products they use, are unique and a delight to read. The author really gives the reader a feel for life during this time in United States history through these details of items such as telephone switchboards and party lines, drug store products like "Wildroot Hair Tonic" and "Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound", and slang like "swell" and "jeepers". While I got a true feel for life in small town America at this time, with the exception of a few of the characters talking with a Southern accent and some Southern recipes at the back of the book, I didn't feel I was immersed in the South like I am with other Southern books, such as Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott series.
This is an enjoyable book, which in addition to the period details, also contains interesting tidbits within the story about flowers and gardening that tie in well with the garden club theme. In addition, since Liz writes for the local newspaper, housekeeping tips from one of her "columns" appear at the end of the book. The no-nonsense Verna and sweet Liz make a good team in getting to the bottom of the mystery surrounding Nona Jean and Miss Lake. The subplot involving Bessie's personal mystery from years ago was also intriguing, and both storylines were resolved by the end of the book without any loose ends.
Fans of the author's China Bayles series or Kate Collins' Flower Shop mysteries will appreciate the style of writing and the gardening information included in this book. Overall, the book is a fast-paced cozy, great for a beach read or inside on a sunny summer day when it's too hot to work in your own garden.
This review was originally written for The Season for Romance E-Zine. The book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.
This becomes a secondary concern when Miss Nona Jean Jamison and her friend Miss Lake come to town from Chicago to take care of her invalid aunt Miss Hamer. The Darling Dahlias' treasurer Verna Tidewell recognizes Miss Jamison as Lorelei La Mate who performed nearly naked in the burlesque show the Ziegfeld Frolic. Her companion Miss Lake stars in her own show and is never seen without a veil covering her face. Mr. Gold arrives in Darling looking for the two women. Miss Jamison learns of the male outsider but denies she is the one he seeks to Lizzy. Mademoiselle President decides to learn who the two Chicago females are really up to and why they came to her sweet home Alabama when each is a city gal. By doing so this Darling Dahlia finds she is also trying to prevent a hired gun from killing the visitors.
This Depression Era regional thriller is a fun amusing satirical tale as the Chicago culture of gangsters and strippers invade a small town. As always in any Susan Wittig Albert's series including this one (see The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree), the reader feels transplanted in time and place as the meticulous interwoven tidbits bring to life late 1930. Dizzy Lizzy and her eccentric Darlings want to insure that the Day Chicago Dies in not in Sweet Home Alabama
Ms. Albert, has a wonderful method of writing Historical Fiction that makes you a part of the times. She not only researches her times, implements in use, language, foods, cost of living, but throws in a time-related mystery or two for good measure.
This novel has us wondering who the two new ladies in town are. Yes, yes, we know what the story around town is, but, there is just something 'off' about it. Then, a strange man comes looking for them and even more shocking details come out via the beauty parlor. Could Al Capone be involved?
And, what does the new Telephone Booth have to do with a plot? Also, those Naked Ladies on Ms. Hamer's lawn, well my heavens, is all I have to say.
Recipes, homemade cleaning remedies and gardening tips are included. This novel had me talking about the Crash of '29 (that is 1929 for the young among us,) and housing foreclosures, Pres. Hoover and the unemployed. I learned that we are in almost identical times. I'm not so sure we learned from the past this go-round, perhaps this book can have a social impact. Well, read it and discuss it with your friends.
An Excellent read. Now for the next....Please Ms. Albert?