The Darling Dahlias Mysteries
- 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? Were you glad you read it? If you know other work by this author, how is this similar or different?