cover image The Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society

The Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society

Augusta Trobaugh, . . Dutton, $24.95 (228pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94879-7

Treading the familiar ground of women's friendship in the South, Trobaugh's sixth novel (after The River Jordan ) exalts the bonds among Beulah, Zion, Wildwood and Sweet, four Tea-Olive, Ga., churchgoing ladies (all named after hymns) and founding members of the titular society. Trobaugh chronicles how Beulah and Zion come to plot the murder of Judge Hyson Breed, a New Yorker who retires to their quiet town, seduces Sweet into marriage and then bullies her into giving up not only her ancestral land but also her lifelong friends. He ingratiates himself with the merchants of Tea-Olive and insinuates himself into the town leadership for his own nefarious purposes. Readers who like their villains irredeemably evil and their heroines glowing "with that special shine of women who do good for the community and who love the Lord with all their hearts" may forgive the predictability of the plot and enjoy the well-meaning characters forced by dire circumstances to draw on all of their resourcefulness to protect their friends, their town and their cherished values—while remaining unfailingly polite. Less forgiving readers may be unamused by Beulah and Zion's attempts at vigilante justice against their cardboard nemesis. Agent, Harvey Klinger. (July)