The Darling Dahlias and the Eleven O’Clock Lady
The Darling Dahlias, Book #6
By Susan Wittig Albert
Author website: http://www.susanalbert.com/
New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert transports readers to the summer of 1934, when a sensational murder shakes up the small Southern town of Darling, Alabama—and pulls in the ladies of the Darling Dahlias’ garden club, who never let the grass grow under their feet when there’s a mystery to solve…
The eleven o’clock lady has always been one of garden club president Liz Lacy’s favorite spring wildflowers. The plant is so named because the white blossoms don’t open until the sun shines directly on them and wakes them up.
But another Eleven O’Clock Lady is never going to wake up again. Rona Jean Hancock—a telephone switchboard operator who earned her nickname because her shift ended at eleven, when her nightlife was just beginning—has been found strangled with her own silk stocking in a very unladylike position.
Gossip sprouts like weeds in a small town, and Rona Jean’s somewhat wild reputation is the topic of much speculation regarding who might have killed her. As the Darling Dahlias begin to sort through Rona Jean’s private affairs, it appears there may be a connection to some skullduggery at the local Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Working at the camp, garden club vice president Ophelia Snow digs around to expose the truth…before a killer pulls up stakes and gets away with murder.
Even with another long title, The Darling Dahlias and the Eleven O’Clock Lady is memorable as are all of these installments of the Darling Dahlias books. They are set in the small southern town of Darling, Alabama in the 30s. This one brings the reader to this wonderful small town in the summer of 1934, as they are recovering from the devastating effects the depression had on them. Things are looking up as Roosevelt’s newly implemented Civilian Conservation Corps has brought much needed income to the town and camp residents are spending their money in town as well. The town is flourishing. Everything seems to be going well until Rona Jean Hancock, known as the Eleven O’Clock Lady due to her switchboard shift ending at eleven and her night life beginning, ends up murdered. Gossip grows well in the Deep South, almost as well as the Kudzu that was imported to help the terrain.
I love that author Susan Wittig Albert lists the names of the officers and members of the wonderful and eclectic garden club. As usual in this series, one or two of the members takes the forefront in finding answers to the mystery. This time it is Ophelia. Also newly elected sheriff Buddy Norris plays a major part. The characters are well written, wonderfully different and for the most part very intelligent. There is humor, intrigue and suspense in this entertaining read. There are also side stories, mini mysteries and well researched information throughout. It is a great journey back to a simpler time, well mostly at least.
The author also adds wonderful information about the CCC-Civilian Conservation Corps. I am ashamed to say I had never even heard of them. Wow did they do a lot for this country. And not just in their physical labor, but also to help reverse the devastation of the Depression financially and environmentally. Make sure you read the Historical Note Section. Another wonderful addition are the tried and true Southern recipes. You really cannot beat Southern food and with each recipe the author includes some historical knowledge and quotes. One more fascinating extra is: The Dahlia’s Household Magic”. It’s “A Baker’s Dozen Ways to Do It Easier, Faster and Better”. Definitely some truly inspiring and helpful household hints.
This is a wonderful cozy, historical novel in a fantastic series. Each one can definitely be read as a stand-alone novel. I think this is my favorite so far as the town is making a comeback. The writing is great and the characters are enchanting and down home. I love going back in time and stepping into the small town of Darling. The members of the Darling Dahlias’ garden club and the citizens of the town were faced with a horrible murder, intense storm, blackmail, theft and more and together the Darlingians got through it. The sun shone and “……on the morning of the Fourth, it smiled down on a brave, resilient little town that had weathered yet another storm” together. I recommend this great read to anyone that is interested in historical cozies and also anyone that enjoys a fabulous trip down home to visit with a great group of characters.