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The Darling Dahlias Mysteries

Reading Group Guides: The Darling Dahlias and the Poinsettia Puzzle (#8)

  1. Darling, Alabama, is a rural Southern town, with very little "plantation glamour" and plenty of small-town realism, with scenes set in the town diner, the courthouse, the beauty parlor, and people's back yards. Why do you think Susan Albert chose a Southern setting for the series? What is there about the South that might make it a more interesting setting than, say, the Midwest or the Northeast? A more problematic setting?

  2. The Dahlias are a garden club. Each of the members has her own personal background, interests, and conflicts. Do the characters come to life for you? How do their relationships further the plot and subplots of the book?

  3. The book (the 8th in the series) is set in late 1934. As a reader, you probably already know that the stock market crashed in October 1929, and that the Great Depression has created serious challenges for everyone in the United States. How does your knowledge of what really happened and what lies ahead affect your reading of this book and your understanding of the characters and their situations? Why do you think Susan chose to set this series at such a bleak time? Do you think there's any connection between "then" and "now"?

  4. Darling has several "gossip centers"—places where people go or things that people use to communicate. What are these? How are they used in the book? How are they useful in developing and unraveling the mystery?

  5. Susan likes to weave her stories with several plot threads—braided plots," she calls them. How many plot threads do you see in this book? How are these related to the interests, personalities, and conflicts of the central characters?

  6. Historical mysteries are fun to read because of the details that relate to the period in which they are set. In this series, what are some of the 1930s' details that you enjoyed? Did they remind you of things you've seen or experienced in the past? How close (or how far away) do you feel from this period in American history? Why?

  7. This book picks up a plot thread that began in the previous book, #7 in the series, The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover. If you've read that book, how does this one continue the mystery? Do you think the two books are best read as a pair, or do they stand alone? Is there a plot thread in this book that might lead into the next? (Susan says she thinks it will be titled The Darling Dahlias and the Voodoo Lily.)

  8. Susan says "In the cozies I read, I'm sometimes annoyed when the central mystery feels artificial and contrived. In my own books, I always try to motivate, develop, and resolve the mystery as realistically as possible. I try to use as many real, historical, nonfiction elements as I can." Did you notice any of these elements in this book? Do you think Susan has succeeded in making the story "realistic"? Why or why not?

  9. There's a map on the website that you can print out. Do you enjoy seeing maps of the towns you visit in fiction? Do you think this adds to your reading pleasure?

Your reading group might enjoy refreshments made from a recipe at the back of this book. The Pecan Tassies are especially good. Be sure and try them! Or you can check out the recipes from other books, on the series website.