”Excellent timely regional Depression Era mystery that brings to life the atmosphere of a period in which people are concerned over the economy that has left no chicken in almost any pot.”
—Follow The Clue
It is 1934. FDR is in the White House, the New Deal is in full swing, and Prohibition has finally been repealed. Bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert returns to Darling, Alabama, where the ladies of the local garden club aren’t afraid to dig a little dirt if that’s what it takes to cultivate a mystery . . .
When the Lucky Four Clovers run into a string of bad luck, it looks like the music may have ended for Darling’s favorite barbershop quartet—just when the Dixie Regional Barbershop Competition is about to take place. To complicate things, there’s a serious foul-up in Darling’s telephone system—and Myra May and Violet don’t have a penny for repairs. The town’s party lines may have to go out of business, which would be bad news for the gossips.
And it doesn’t help that newspaper editor/publisher Charlie Dickens is facing a crisis of confidence in his new wife, Fannie. Or that Liz Lacy (the Dahlias’ president) has to decide whether she’s ready for a do-over in her ill-fated romance with Grady Alexander. And what’s that secret her old friend Fremon is keeping? What does he know about what happened to the unlucky Clover on that dark night on the Jericho Road?
While liquor is legal again, moonshine isn’t, and as Sheriff Buddy Norris discovers when he confronts Cypress County’s most notorious bootlegger, a little luck is a good thing. But whatever the challenge, the Dahlias know that pie fixes everything. And you will, too, when you hear what they’re baking for Darling’s pie supper.
Once again, author Susan Wittig Albert has brought us a charming story of richly human characters who face the Great Depression with courage and grace. She reminds us that friends offer the best of themselves to each other, community is what holds us together, and luck is what we make of it.
BONUS. Liz Lacy’s Garden Gate column on “lucky” plants, plus the Dahlias’ collection of traditional Southern pie recipes, flavored with a dash of cookery history.
Praise for The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover
“This sweet book captures the true tone of a small town.”
—Times-Picayune, New Orleans
“Cozy fans will be delighted to learn that the prolific Albert—known for her clever puzzles, engaging characters, love of nature, and outstanding historic research—is debuting yet another exceptional series.”
—Booklist Starred Review
“The author of the popular China Bayles mysteries brings a small Southern town to life and vividly captures an era and culture—the Depression, segregation, class differences, the role of women in the South—with authentic period details. Her book fairly sizzles with the strength of the women of Darling.”
—Library Journal Starred Review
“Albert does a beautiful job of blending a whodunit with a vivid portrait of an idyllic Depression-era Southern town.”
“Excellent timely regional Depression Era amateur sleuth that brings to life the atmosphere of a period in which people are concerned over the economy that has left no chicken in almost any pot.”
—Follow The Clue
Reading Group Guides: The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover (#7)
- As usual in a Dahlias’ novel, there’s a lot going on. In this book, there is Ophelia’s job as a reporter; Charlie Dickens’ discovery of his wife’s mysterious monthly payments; Lizzy’s writing project and her relationship with Grady; the problems at the telephone exchange; and the mysterious death of a member of the Clovers. Which of these subplots did you find most interesting? Why?
- All small towns thrive on gossip, and Darling is no different. The Diner, the Beauty Bower, and the telephone exchange are important gossip centers in Darling. What kind of gossip is shared in each? How are these centers different? Which is your favorite? Why?
- Characters are the lifeblood of a novel. Of the central characters in this mystery, which ones do you find most interesting? What makes them worth spending time with? Describe their personalities and motivations.
- Discuss the central mystery: the story of the unlucky Clover. What happens? How does your understanding of that event change as you read? Who did you suspect of causing the Clover’s death? Were you surprised as you learned various details of what happened, or had you already guessed?
- Susan Albert has said, “I’m not terribly fond of mysteries that tie everything up neatly at the end. I like resolutions as well as the next person, but life isn’t like that. Sometimes ambiguities emerge. I like to be left with some what-if speculation.” What ambiguities emerge at the end of this novel? What sort of what-ifs are you left to consider? How do you feel about that?
- In this series, the town of Darling is itself a character, with a past, a present, and (we hope) a future. What sort of character is it? How does its historical past affect it in the “now” of story time (the 1930s). Is it like other small towns you’ve known or read about? How/why is it different?
- In books about small towns, the characters often appear and reappear in familiar settings. In this book, we have Lizzy in Mr. Moseley’s law office, Myra and Violet at the Diner, Charlie and Ophelia at the newspaper, Buddy at the sheriff’s office, and Beulah and Bettina at the Bower. Each of these settings and groups of characters has a different role to play in the novel. What is it? Which of these is more interesting to you?
- The Dahlias’ mysteries are set in the midst of the Great Depression, a bleak and difficult time. Do you think Susan Albert has recreated that period accurately? Why do you think she chose to write about this period of American history? Is there any connection between then and now? Many readers may have personal or family memories of that period. How did that period of history affect your family?
- This book is the seventh in a series. Have you read any others? Have you read them in order? If so, does reading them in order enhance your enjoyment? If you’ve read others in this series, how does this book measure up against them?
- What did you like or dislike about the book that hasn’t been brought up yet? If you know other work by this author, how is this similar or different?