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AUNT DIMITY TAKES A HOLIDAY
by Nancy Atherton
Viking, 2003 Paperback, 199 pp.
Reviewed by Pamela White
Lori Shepherd is peripherally involved with a murder once again, except this time trouble happens at the estate of the Earl of Harrisford.
In the eighth book in the Aunt Dimity series, we are back in the English countryside with American Lori Shepherd and husband Bill, their three-year-old twins, neighbors Emma and Derek Harris, and, of course, the dearly departed amateur sleuth, Lori's Aunt Dimity.
The set up in each of these books is that Lori inherited the cottage of Aunt Dimity, but Aunt Dimity remains behind through spirited writing in a blue journal. Lori asks the questions; Aunt Dimity offers guidance and answers.
Emma charges in on Lori's quiet afternoon with a demand that Lori prevent a murder. It seems that simple Derek Harris has been hiding his true identity from his wife: he is, in fact, Viscount Hailesham, and will someday inherit his estranged father, Lord Elstyn's, name as well the manor house, gardens and possessions. Derek has been summoned to a family gathering, and coincidentally, so has Lori's solicitor husband, Bill. The reason for the family reunion is a rewriting of the Earl's will. Tensions run high among the family members, their spouses and children, and that's before they are all gathered under the same roof. Emma is worried that some of the resentful cousins might try to prune a branch from the family tree and she wants Lori to come along and keep her husband, Derek, safe.
Beautiful topiaries are set on fire and secret threatening notes are being delivered to certain guests of the Earl, all within hours of Lori's arrival. Thank goodness Lori brought Aunt Dimity along, in the form of the blue journal, both for moral support and advice on what to wear. Lori needs help to solve the mystery of the threats on family members.
Lori and Aunt Dimity go far beyond the call of duty in this novel. Not only do they uncover the mysterious troublemaker, they untangle the web of misunderstandings and wrong assumptions that have kept the future and current Lord Elstyn far apart.
The Aunt Dimity mysteries are sweet cozies, and short reads for fans who prefer an easygoing mystery sans gruesome finds and detailed police procedures. Atherton's writing style is friendly, bringing the reader into the story from the first sentence. She provides twists and turns, unexpected personalities, and an exuberant protagonist I'd certainly like to have as a neighbor.
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