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By Nancy Atherton

Viking, 2004
ISBN: 0-670-03278-6

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

Lori Shepherd, worn out by the Christmas frenzy, is urged by her husband Bill and best friend Emma to take a hike -- literally. As soon as the family nanny shows up, Emma hands Lori her lunch and a map and sends her off for a short ramble through the Cotswold countryside, assuring her that the path is straightforward, with only one turn. As Emma drops Lori off at the trailhead, she adds the curse: "you can't miss it."

After a few hours Lori realizes she has not only missed it, she's about to get caught in a totally unexpected blizzard. Luckily she finds shelter in a deserted country home, Ladythorne Abbey, ancestral home of the late recluse and reputed madwoman Lucasta DeClerke.

The storm brings in two more backpackers, but their presence proves not to be a comfort to Lori. Wendy Walker, who is a rocket scientist, seems too prepared for any occasion, including housebreaking. Jamie Macrae, who is escorted into the house at gunpoint by Catchpole, the ferocious caretaker with gourmet cooking skills, is one of those tall, dark, handsome and charming men who sometimes causes Lori's thoughts to stray from her own charming husband.

All three intruders are American, which causes Catchpole further grief: it seems his late employer hated all things American because of some wrong done to her during World War II.

Nonetheless, they are all captives of the storm. With the warning from her spiritual guide Aunt Dimity that "old sins cast long shadows," Lori sets in to find a lost family treasure, prevent a theft, and untangle a complicated mystery whose roots lay deep in the past.

This is a pleasant, gentle, intriguing addition in the Aunt Dimity series, just right for reading while curled up by a cozy fire.

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