The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush
The Darling Dahlias #5
Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley Prime Crime, September 2014
It’s 1933, and the little town of Darling, Alabama is running out of money. Its only bank has closed, and depositors are out of luck. Businesses can’t meet payroll commitments. People can’t buy necessities, let alone luxuries. Shops, even if they could extend credit, can’t restock their shelves without funds. Only Mickey LeDoux, supplier of moonshine while folks await the end of prohibition, seems to be doing okay—for the time being, anyway.
Who is to blame for the bank’s closing and the town’s woes? Is it the former bank president, who sold the failing financial institution to a big corporation and quickly retired? Perhaps it’s the new president, Alvin Duffy, the person who proposes saving the town by issuing scrip, which seems like counterfeit money to some mistrusting townspeople. And what about Charlie Dickens, the drunken newspaper man, the one who agrees to print the scrip and then somehow “loses” it? Verna Tidwell, acting county treasurer and an officer of the Darling Dahlias Garden Club, resolves to find out who can or cannot be trusted.
If you haven’t read any of the four previous Darling Dahlias mysteries, you’ll delight in the personalities and foibles of the various Dahlia Club members and their fellow townspeople. There’s a guide at the beginning of the book in case you become confused by the plethora of characters. But not to worry—by the time Verna Tidwell gets busy checking out clues, you’ll know the main character, the town of Darling, quite well. During the Great Depression, the welfare of the town depends on the fortunes of the country and the deeds of the townsfolk. The Dahlias are committed to the preservation of Darling and stand ready to deal with its challenges.
Enjoy this book on its own, as I did, or start with the first book in the series and learn to know all the Dahlias well, as I want to do now I’ve been introduced. These gals seem to have grit enough to cope with the times and the crimes to take care of their town.
Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, December 2015.
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections and Furtive Investigation, the first two Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.
Greenwillow Books, September 2015
Tippi & Grace weren’t expected to live past their second birthday, but now they’re sixteen and for financial reasons, must go to school instead of being homeschooled. They’re conjoined from the waist down, sharing two legs and a blended lower digestive system as well as a single set of reproductive organs. Despite physical and emotional hardships, not to mention their younger sister, a promising ballerina, having her own health/emotional issues, the girls are happy and cannot imagine being surgically separated.
When something serious begins to affect both of them, the choices facing them force the girls to look at something they never expected to deal with. Further complicating things are their parents’ financial and emotional problems as well as their first real friends at school, Yasmeen who has her own health issue that allows her to understand the sisters in ways nobody else can, and Jon, a boy who thinks they’re beautiful and isn’t scared off by their physical differences. In fact these two friends give them the courage and motivation to feel alive and free for the first time in their lives.
Told in short verse chapters with the more quiet and shy Grace as the narrator, this is an immensely powerful book, one that is a fast read, but will stay long after readers close the cover because of its sadness and beauty. It’s an excellent book on a very poorly understood condition and deserves to be in any school and public library where good and thought provoking young adult fiction is valued.
Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, October 2015.