Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Hardcover, 304pp
(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Susan Wittig Albert on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter
Excerpt from The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies
From the national bestselling author of the China Bayles Mysteries comes a new series featuring the ladies of a garden club in Darling, Alabama, who also dabble in digging through clues - The Darling Dahlias.
As Darling's town librarian is fond of saying: "Naked Ladies' is not a respectable name for a plant." A lily by any other name would certainly smell as sweet - and look just as beautiful as the naked ladies decorating Miss Harner's lawn...
It seems Miss Harner's house may also be home to naked ladies of a different sort. Her niece, Nona Jean Jamison, and Nona's friend Miss Lake have come to Darling to stay with the elderly recluse. But rumors sprout that these visitors are actually the Naughty and Nice Sisters from the Ziegfeld Frolic, specializing in dancing nearly naked.
When Nona denies her vaudeville past, the Dahlias begin to suspect that it may be more than modesty that's causing both women to lie low. Why has Nona gone to the beauty parlor to change her hair color? Why has Miss Lake not been seen without a veil? And who is the well-dressed man from Chicago who's just arrived, asking about Nona? The Dahlias are convinced that someone is covering up something sinister...
Susan Wittig Albert takes readers back to Darling, Alabama in her latest book, The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies. Fans of the author will be glad to see these gardening, amateur sleuths back for another adventure. Albert employs great research techniques and attention to detail to get readers looking for answers and sifting through clues. These Southern belles are not your typical garden party ladies and readers will love their sassy spirit and effervescent nature.
Elizabeth Lacy, the president of the Darling Dahlias Garden Club isn't the only one curious about the Darling's newest inhabitants. Nona Jamison and her friend Miss Lake have arrived in Darling to take care of Nona's aunt, Juliet Harner, a recluse. But when one of the Dahlias recognizes Nona as a former Ziegfeld Frolic dancer, rumors begin to fly. The Dahlias suspect that something isn't quite right about these two ladies. Nona changes her hair color and Miss Lake is never seen without a veil. What are they trying to hide? When a mysterious Mr. Gold arrives on the scene, the Dahlias quickly find that the gangster ways of Chicago have invaded their small southern town.
Susan Wittig Albert brings readers a cozy mystery with an interesting premise. Two ladies appear in the small town of Darling, Alabama who have a colorful past as the Naughty and Nice Sisters from the Ziegfeld Frolic who danced in next to nothing in their vaudeville days. This was quite scandalous for a 1930's small southern town. The authors uses a connection between one of the women and the infamous Al Capone to create a cozy that readers will find hard to put down. I thought it was interesting idea and the author was able to catch the feeling of desperation and decline that was significant to 1930's small town America. She was also able to bring the gangster mentality of Chicago to life in the south. Albert does an amazing job of adding period detail and making our Southern sleuths as authentic as possible.
The author has done a great job of introducing the Darling Dahlias in the first book in the series, The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree and in her latest book she continues to develop these characters right down to the language they use. Liz Lacy, one of the main characters of the book is the quintessential southern belle. She is poised and intelligent and very dramatic. Not only is Liz interested in the mysterious ladies but she's dealing with a situation of her own in this book. With the crash of the stock market, Liz must face the possibility that her mother will have to move in with her and she is decidedly against the idea. I liked the way the author was able to switch back and forth between the main mystery aspect of the book and the back stories of the Darling Dahlias themselves. I think readers will be able to identify with these ladies and laugh at all the crazy situations they seem to get themselves into.
Susan Wittig Albert shows a great sense of what the south was like during the 30's and what the people were facing. She uses the depression era as a backdrop for this series and I think readers will be find a commonality considering the recent financial problems in today's society. Albert is also able to take her great love of nature and instill it into this series as she has done in the past with the China Bayles series. Her descriptions of the flowers and fauna as well as other forms of gardening give the book a homey, rustic feel that will appeal to a lot of readers. This is definitely a southern series and I think that will really translate to the reader.
The mystery aspect of the book was somewhat predictable, but the lush scenery and the compelling characters are really what drove this one. Cozy fans will find lots of reasons to like this series and I would recommend it to all of my cozy readers. Albert has a way of drawing the reader in to the story and not letting go to the very end. This is not a lengthy book at just over 300 pages and can be read quickly. Readers who love the south will love it, and there's even a hint of romance in the air for my romance readers.
The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
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 and a family-friendly mystery series set in the early 1900s featuring Beatrix Potter. She and her husband Bill, coauthor a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries under the name Robin Paige. The Alberts live near Austin, Texas.
The publisher has been gracious and is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Susan Wittig Albert's book, The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies to one lucky winner from Debbie's Book Bag.
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~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST July 30th.
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