The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star


National bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert returns to the small town of Darling, Alabama, in the 1930s—where the Darling Dahlias, the colorful ladies of a garden club, are anything but shrinking violets when it comes to rooting out criminals…

The Texas Star herself—Miss Lily Dare, the “fastest woman in the world”—is bringing her Dare Devils Flying Circus to Darling. Unfortunately, she’s also bringing a whole lot of trouble. As the Dahlias prepare for the annual Watermelon Festival—where they will present the famous female aviatrix with her own Texas Star hibiscus—rumors are flying.

Dahlias president Liz Lacy learns from newspaperman Charlie Dickens that Miss Dare has been threatened and her plane sabotaged. Apparently the bold and beautiful barnstormer has made plenty of enemies. And is it possible she may even be involved with the husband of one of Darling’s local ladies?

And speaking of wings, the new cook at Myra May’s Darling Diner can fry a chicken and whip up a sweet potato meringue pie like nobody’s business. But why is she keeping her past such a mystery?

As the Texas Star barnstorms into town, Liz and Verna Tidwell offer to help bring down a saboteur who may be propelled by revenge. Before it’s all over, there will be plenty of black eyes and dark secrets revealed…

Includes Southern-Style Depression-Era Recipes! 


For fans of:  Elizabeth Lynn Casey, Ann Purser

It’s July of 1932, and the residents of Darling, Alabama are preparing for the town’s annual Watermelon Festival. Anticipation is especially high this year, for in addition to the usual rides, games, and contests, aviatrix Lily Dare and the Dare Devils Flying Circus will be making an appearance. Miss Dare (aka the Texas Star) has earned herself a bit of a reputation for making enemies and breaking hearts, so it’s not much of a surprise when rumors start swirling that someone’s sabotaged the pilot’s plane at an air show in Pensacola. She manages to make the repairs and get herself and her bi-wing to Darling on schedule, but who’s to say her saboteur didn’t follow?

The ladies of the Darling Dahlias garden club are in charge of this year’s festival, and are therefore determined it be a success – even if that means babysitting the barnstormer for every second that she’s in town. But while the Dahlias are relatively certain they can protect the Texas Star from any would-be attackers, the question remains:  who’s going to protect the Dahlias from the Texas Star?

The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star is the fourth of Susan Wittig Albert’s Darling Dahlias Mysteries, and it’s an absolute delight to read from cover to cover. The story is quickly paced and solidly plotted. Albert’s prose is mannered and graceful, yet chock full of wit and charm. And she paints a vivid picture of small-town life in 1930s Alabama.

The mystery is gentle, without a dead body to speak of, but is no less compelling for it. Yes, the central mystery relates to a potentially nefarious plot against outsider Lily Dare, but small towns are full of secrets, and Albert uses that fact to great effect here. Intrigue can be found in all corners of Darling: Who’s sending Mildred anonymous letters accusing her husband of marital infidelity? What’s the story with the Darling Diner’s mysterious new cook? Presenting the reader with so many unanswered questions keeps the suspense level high and the pages turning.

Albert’s characters are nuanced and fully fleshed. The Darling Dahlias are winsome to a one and play off each other beautifully. And Lily Dare reads like a legend – often fiery, sometimes steely, and occasionally quite vulnerable.

Like the other books in this series, The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star has an ensemble cast and a shifting narrative point of view. In the hands of a lesser writer, this method of storytelling might flatten the characters and muddy the plot, but Albert pulls it off with aplomb. Each person who takes a turn at the wheel has his or her own aspirations, motivations, and complications, and as such, each has his or her own distinct and uniquely compelling narrative voice. This not only informs character, it also provides you with a much more complete picture of the story than if you were to hear it all from a single person; you feel a bit like an old-fashioned switchboard operator, plugging into conversations all over town. And what’s more, it gives you a more complete picture of the community; thanks to Albert’s efforts, Darling is elevated from mere set piece to main character, and for that, she should be commended

Reviewed by Kat