Genre: historical cozy mystery
National bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert returns to the small town of Darling, Alabama, in the 1930s - and the Darling Dahlias, the ladies of a garden club who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty solving mysteries...
Just in time for the Confederate Day celebration, the Darling Dahlias are ready to plant Confederate roses along the fence of the town cemetery. Of course, Miss Dorothy Rogers, club member and town librarian, would be quick to point out the plant is in fact a hibiscus.
The Confederate rose is not the only thing that is not what it first appears to be in this small Southern town. Earle Scroggins, the county treasurer, has got the sheriff thinking that Scroggins' employee Verna Tidwell (also the Darling Dahlias' trusted treasurer) is behind a missing $15,000. But Darling Dahlias president Liz Lacy is determined to prove Verna is not a thief.
Meanwhile Miss Rogers has discovered her own mystery - what appears to be a secret code embroidered under the cover of a pillow, the only possession she has from her grandmother. She enlists the help of a local newspaperman, who begins to suspect the family heirloom may have larger significance.
With missing money, secret codes, and the very strange behavior of one resident, Darling, Alabama, on the eve of Confederate Day, is anything but a sleepy little town...
(Includes Southern-Style Depression-Era Recipes)
I am a big fan of Susan Wittig Albert books, be they the contemporary cozy mystery China Bayles series, which features herbs, or the Victorian/Edwardian cozy mysteries written under Robin Paige with her husband, or these 1930’s Darling Dahlia books. She is an excellent writer, even though it comes across as slow perhaps at times. Susan manages to capture the time spirit flawlessly, and I could just imagine myself walking around Darling and visiting the shops and the courthouse.
As usual in the small town of Darling, Alabama, there are a few story threads in one book, so you have to follow a few of the Darling Dahlia’s around. The main story evolves about Verna, a very capable woman who handles the Cypress County Probate Clerk Office, and now the Treasurer’s Office as well. Of course her boss, mr. Scroggings is supposed to be doing the job, but he is not at the office very much, and it is Verna who is doing the real work, with mr. Scrogging’s getting the credit. Something is just not right at the Treasurer’s Office, and Verna just can’t figure out what is happening. There was a second audit last week, and the auditor did not tell her anything, but she is sure he has found something. And why has the county 4 different bank accounts, with three of them outside the county? The ladies who have been working there have no idea why, they just did what their late boss ordered them to do, without any questions asked.
So when Verna gets a call from Scroggings, putting her on furlough, with the order to hand in her keys to the office, she gets very suspicious. Is he going to put the blame of embezzlement on her instead of conducting a proper investigation? Of course Verna will not let things stand, she will fight for her reputation and her job. And with the help of her best friend Lizzie, who works for the local solicitor, who is unfortunately out of town for a few weeks, she will find out the truth. Bits and bits of information come in, with the help of the other Dahlia’s and Verna will find out the sordid truth.
And who is telling the local newspaper man, Charley Dickens, gossip from the office, so he can write his scathing editorials about the missing funds for the roads and bridges?
Miss Rogers finally learns the truth about her family, when a horrible cat demolishes the only family heirloom she has, a pillow made by her maternal grandmother. When they discover some strange embroidery on the pillow beneath the cover, it might be code used in the Civil War.
And Abigail Biggs is behaving very strangely lately. But when her hair falls out while in the expert care of beautician Beulah, Beulah discovers the horrible side effects of the dieting pills Abigail has been using lately…
I enjoyed getting back together with all the Darling Dahlia’s and catching up on their lives. The Depression is getting worse, more and more people are loosing their jobs, and the Darling Dahlia’s have started a big vegetable garden to be able to feed their people. But of course they don’t neglect their flowers, their latest project is the Confederate Rose, which they are growing to plant in the cemetery for Confederate Day.
I really dislike mr. Scroggings, whose name makes me associate it with Scrooge. He is a really sleazy man, and I do love that he gets what he deserves in the end, and so does Verna. I really do recommend this 1930’s mystery series. To my totally ignorant opinion, this is researched very well, and told really compellingly. Decent people, trying to survive in times going bad.
A question to my American readers, is this Alabama State Day still celebrated? (on the fourth Monday of April).
© 2013 Reviews by Aurian