A Dilly of a Death
by Susan Wittig Albert

Berkley Books, 2004. ISBN 0425193993.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 02/26/2004

Fiction: Mystery

Unlike other titles sitting on the table by my bedside, A Dilly of a Death kept me reading late into the night. I admit that I am a China Bayles fan; however, it was not always that way. Even as I admired the author's writing style and the details about herbs and gardening and local color, I did not like China Bayles all that much in the early stories. There were times when she just wouldn't deal with her feelings. I wanted to say, "Grow up, China." Somewhere along the way, she did. Not to say the earlier books were not good. They were yummy. In every book, Albert focuses on a different topic, such as the dying of cloth or chili peppers. We learn about China's shop, her friend Ruby, and her hunk of a boyfriend, then husband. She even tosses in a couple of good, relevant recipes. China becomes a friend.

Dilly revolves around a pickle factory family. In this tale, we, too, go round and round. Who did it this time? Was it the neighbor who had a past with the victim? Was it the secretary? Was it the son? How about the artist in the guest quarters? We are kept guessing until the end.

Meanwhile, life in Pecan Springs, Texas, moves along. Flamboyant Ruby, who is mostly a grown woman, finds her past repeating itself when her daughter tries out her wings. In the ways that count, though, Amy isn't at all like her mother. Ruby has the wisdom and self-confidence of a few decades of life experience under her belt, while Amy hasn't yet discovered True North. If Amy has gained any wisdom, she doesn't bother to display it very regularly. Ruby has trouble remembering that she, too, had trouble discovering True North.

Albert has written another winner with psychological insight, wit and an absorbing plot. Read it. It will capture your imagination, and you will learn a lot about cucumbers and pickles along the way.

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