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by Nancy Atherton

USA, Hardcover; 229 pages
Viking, 2001
ISBN: 067003021

Reviewed by Pamela White

Talk about a cozy cozy. Life was pretty uneventful in Finch, a traditional British village complete with tea shop, pub, general store and vicarage. Things haven't changed all that much, apparently, since Miss Marple observed human nature in St. Mary's Mead. Small country villages still have secrets, jealousies, snoops and, gasp! murder.

Nancy Atherton brings us another adventure with Lori Shephard, a friendly, passionate American readers will be drawn to. This adventure involves the murder of new resident, Prunella (Pruneface to those she slandered) Hopper. The reader will quickly agree with the statement near the end of the novel that never was there a more deserving victim as Ms. Atherton leads us through Pruneface's skills at stirring wasp's nests stinging those she slanders as well as herself.

And while the murder victim is the obvious choice to be offed, the possible suspects are those who have been stung by Prunella yet none seem to have the violence in them to strike back in such a final manner that would leave a woman's skull bashed in. It's up to Lori and the Vicar's interestingly attractive nephew, Nicholas, to seek out the suspects and determine who could have been pushed to kill. With the help of Aunt Dimity, a rather supernatural presence in Lori's cottage who makes contact through a blue journal bequeathed to Lori by the deceased Aunt Dimity, (and all this seems charmingly believable thanks to Atherton's engaging writing style and realistic, curious and intriguing characters), the suspects are narrowed down.

The denouement involves a gathering of suspects unlike any Hercules Poirot ever saw. The suspects, instead of pointing fingers, discover a new respect for each other as they conclude the amateur murder investigation.

Nancy Atherton continues her Aunt Dimity series in grand style with a romp through British village life with its ups, downs and murders. Lori Shepard is a fun guide through mystery solving. Cherish this amateur sleuth, her spectral friend and the author from whose pen she springs.

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