Aunt Dimity's Death
by Nancy Atherton
Category: Fiction / Mystery
241 pages; ISBN: 0140178406
As a child, Lori Shepherd absorbed her mother's bedtime stories of the incomparable, forthright Aunt Dimity the way many children today devour the Harry Potter tales. The ordinary spinster with the knack for becoming embroiled in extraordinary adventures leaves fond memories for Lori, her only comfort following her mother's death and a bitter divorce as she ekes out a poverty-stricken living in Boston. The last thing she expects is any help from the outside, especially from Aunt Dimity, a character she had believed to be fiction. An official letter from her estate reveals otherwise.
Like a fairy tale, the anachronistic law firm of Willis and Willis rescues Lori from a lifetime of Beanie-Weenie winners with the news that not only was Dimity Westwood an actual person, but an actual rich person who left Lori in her will. The only stipulation Lori must fulfill to receive her share is to write an introduction to a proposed book of the Aunt Dimity stories. . .in Dimity's England cottage. . . which neighbors believe is haunted. Lori cannot decide which is more uncomfortable: sharing quarters with the ghost of Aunt Dimity or with the younger Willis lawyer, a starry-eyed dreamer who insists on gifting Lori with expensive clothes.
Then there is the other ghost that haunts Lori during this trip - a posthumous letter from her mother imploring her delve into Dimity's life, in particular her life before World War II and the events that led to Dimity's bouts of depression and spinsterhood. In finding the answers, Lori believes Dimity may finally be able to rest in peace.
Aunt Dimity's Death does not begin as a mystery in the traditional sense; yes, there are mysterious elements in the story such as the rigamarole Lori must endure to appease the law firm of her identity and the peculiar behavior of the younger Willis, but these actions make for a good third of the book and one wonders if any cutting could have been done to help progress the story.
This is not to say the first Aunt Dimity novel is not good. It is a well-written book, and Atherton's style is reminiscent of the English cozy - more talk than action. It is quite clear this book is meant to set up a series, though the “mystery" tag in this novel might be misleading. “Romantic suspense" is a better description of Aunt Dimity's Death, considering how the attraction between Lori and Willis, Jr. slowly overcomes their discomfort, leaving readers with a story even Aunt Dimity would not mind hearing more than once.
Kathryn Lively is the publisher of Phaze, romance novels in eBook and paperback. She offers book promotion advice for authors.