I was shall we say, to use an euphuism, a bit put out when it was learned over a year ago that Susan Wittig Albert was not taking readers back to Pecan Springs, Texas, but to some small town in Alabama; not back to China Bayles and her friends, but to some group of ladies call the “The Darling Dahlias.”
However, this was Susan Albert. To my way of thinking, one does not just dump an author who has entertained you for many years. So The DARLING DAHLIAS AND THE CUCUMBER TREE was read, admittedly with a degree of basis from the start. What was my reaction when finished?
Let’s say it was like the first time your wife fixed a dish of potato salad that you kept talking about, the one you kept saying you loved when you were a child. When she asked, “How is it?” you said, “Very good,” but did not give voice to the thought, “It’s not the same as Mom’s.”
But from that time forward, you ate a hearty portion whenever she made the salad, and said, “Very good,” with more enthusiasm. That was my reaction after reading THE DARLING DAHLIAS AND THE NAKED LADIES, the second book in the new series. How can one not enjoy the perfectly captured mood and flavor of the 1930s as it is portrayed in Darling, a small fictional town in Alabama?
The Darling Dahlias, as the members of the local gardening club call themselves, are delightful characters. There are thirteen of them, listed at the beginning of the book in what one could call a mini town directory. But I still don’t have them sorted out as well as I do the folks back in Pecan Springs. After all, I’ve made eighteen or so trips to Pecan Springs over the years. Give me time with the Dahlias.
And the best is yet to come. The author has announced that a third trip to Alabama is in the works. That trip will be titled "The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose."
And next April (2012), readers will go again to Pecan Springs. The author has announced that “CAT’S CLAW, a Pecan Springs mystery,” will “feature Sheila Dawson, with China Bayles.” It should be an interesting visit, with the apparent focus on chief of police Sheila, a chance to see how things have worked out since the announcement of her engagement to Sheriff Blackie Blackwell. Did they get married? And who resigned from law enforcement?