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The Darling Dahlias and the Eleven…

The Darling Dahlias and the Eleven O'Clock Lady

by Susan Wittig Albert

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Exciting murder that keeps you guessing in small town Darling. A real page turner. Latest in the Darling Dahla serious. Fantastic! ( )
  lhaines56 | Apr 2, 2016 |
When a young woman who works at the Darling (Alabama) telephone exchange is murdered, the “Darling Dahlias,” members of the garden club, do some snooping on their own. Buddy Norris, the new local sheriff has his hands full with the first murder on his watch and everyone wants him to succeed.

The victim, Rona Jean Hancock, was quite the woman about town. She was thought to be seeing an Army officer stationed at the new Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp, where many of the Dahlias are working. But there were other men. When her autopsy turns up the fact that Rona Jean was pregnant, speculation about who the father could be is of interest to both the Dahlias and the sheriff.

Full of depression-era details, this light historical mystery gives readers a feel for what Americans, women especially, faced in the 1930s. As always, Susan Wittig Albert does a great job of storytelling and character development. My only disappointment was that Buddy Norris seems to fill more of the pages than the Dahlias. ( )
  NewsieQ | Oct 13, 2015 |
Welcome to Darling Alabama in the summer of 1934. It's been a steamy hot summer so far and all the Dahlias are trying to keep cool in the best way they can. Remember, it's 1934, so there is no A/C. Fans and open windows is all they've got. The book opens with a bang when Violet from the Diner stumble across the body of one of her telephone exchange girls in the front seat of her friend Myra May's car. She is in a very uncompromising position with a silk stocking around her neck. Rona Jean Hancock wasn't a "nice" girl. She played fast and loose with a number of men around town and when it's discovered that she had more than her social life to hide, Sheriff Buddy Norris realizes that there is more to this killing than meets the eye. Darling has been doing better since we last visited. A CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) has set up a big camp just outside of town and the young men working in the Corps are making improvements and planting trees all over the County. The CCC was an idea of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was a way to get young, unemployed men out of homes where there was not enough to eat and get them doing Civilian style projects in small towns around the country that needed some help. It brought employment for the locals and most of their supplies and food were bought locally, thus boosting the local economy. It was interesting to read this book because I love the Dahlias, but also because I knew we were going to get a story with Franklin D. Roosevelt and his impressive wife Eleanor. You see Ms. Albert is one of my friends on GoodReads so, as a result, I see what she is reading, and a few months ago there were a lot of books about this power couple and biographies of each of them on her reading now list. I love the way Susan has introduced these two people into this Dahlias book. The CCC movement was won of Roosevelt's better ideas during the Great Depression. Susan has even included an article about the entire history of the CCC movement at the back of the book. It is the way that Susan brings real-life occurrences into her Dahlia books, coupled with the wonderful characters that she has created, that makes this series such a delight for me. ( )
  Romonko | Sep 14, 2015 |
Even if you have never read one of the Darling Dahlias series, you can start by reading THE DARLING DAHLIAS AND THE ELEVEN O’CLOCK LADY without feeling that you’ll miss anything that came before. It is a stand-alone read that moves quickly, has an interesting plot, and describes life in early summer, 1934 in a small, Alabama city.
When the body of twenty-two-year-old Rona Jean Hancock is found in a car in a local garage, the new sheriff, Buddy Norris, has his first big case to solve. Unlike many more recent novels (and actual cases), the residents are quite open to talking to him about what they know.
A subplot involves some unknown crime being committed in the nearby Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) camp and the attempt by the local newspaper editor to determine the crime as well as find the perpetrator. The editor of the newspaper, the weekly Dispatch, sees these cases as his opportunity to become famous beyond the town’s borders. The paper usually focuses on local stories, e.g., social events, local government news, and local business happenings. The paper , whose motto might be ‘Only the news that’s fit to be read–by your mother’ is popular with the local community, who most likely already knows all the information through the gossip line. But Charlie Dickens, the editor, believes that “Getting the news fast doesn’t guarantee that it’ll be accurate.” Dickens shocks his readers by including a word in the murder story that was not used in a newspaper for the general public.
Susan Wittig Albert includes humor in her writing. About one character she writes, “But Leona Ruth was disagreeable and mean-spirited. She could start a argument all by herself in an empty room....” She describes what Norris finds when he investigates Rona Jean’s room and finds a box of sanitary napkins. Many people today wouldn’t recognize what he is describing but women before the 1970s would. There is also a Recipe for Preserving Children.
One current issue is subtly introduced: A lesbian couple. Albert writes about abortion but doesn’t mention that abortion became illegal because the procedure was dangerous to the life of the woman, not for religious reasons. Once antibiotics and better pre/post natal care became available, there were fewer deaths of women during and shortly after childbirth. She uses the term “unborn baby” though that phrase is much more recent because of a campaign by the anti-abortion movement.
I wondered why a fourteen-going-on-fifteen-year-old girl, described as a bookworm, would be interested in reading Nancy Drew books. They usually appeal to girls somewhat younger. But the series began in 1930 so books about a strong, independent girl would have been novel.
The story contains the rarely heard first verse of “Dixie.” It’s quite a battle cry. It relates that FDR “reforested his family’s depleted land on the Hudson River by planting hundreds of thousands of trees .”
The historical notes at the end depict life after the depression started and a brief but comprehensive history of CCC camps: Why they were established. Who was hired. How the men lived. What they accomplished including benefits for local community as well as the men. Why the program ended.
The book ends with eight recipes and thirteen household tips.
Though there are a couple negatives (There was some unnecessary repetition. It didn’t explain why the Grand Marshall of the Fourth of July Parade was selected only a couple days before the parade.) the book is well-written and fast-paced with more substance than many cozy mysteries offer. ( )
  Judiex | Sep 6, 2015 |
Having read this book on the heels of the book before it in the series, THE DARLING DAHLIAS AND THE SILVER DOLLAR BUSH, I will say I liked ELEVEN O’CLOCK LADY more.

The Darling Dahlias are back and planning on enjoying a wonderful summer. But they didn’t plan on the murder of the town’s lady with the “somewhat wild reputation”.

With rumors sprouting up all over and the suspect list growing like weeds, THE DAELING DAHLEAS AND THE SILVER DOLLAR BUSH was a well plotted mystery that captured my attention at the very beginning and held me captured until the end.

I really like all the ladies in the garden club. In real life, one or two of them would be sort of hard to get used to. However, between the pages of this book, they are a lot of fun to read.

With it’s 1930’s setting, this isn’t your typical cozy mystery. That being said, this series shouldn’t be over looked by cozy readers.

And be sure to check out the back of the book where you will find The Dahlias’ Household Magic tips, and wonderful southern style depression – era recipes! ( )
  LisaKsBookReviews | Sep 1, 2015 |
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"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" --… (more)

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