Mystery lovers can once again follow the life of Lori Shepard and her Aunt Dimity, confidante and spirit guide extraordinaire, in Nancy Atherton’s newest novel in the Aunt Dimity mystery series. The book begins with Lori wearily sitting down with a cup of tea after an exhausting day with her twin sons. But she’s soon interrupted when her friend and neighbor Emma Harris storms into her cottage, greatly upset. She’s recently been told by her mild-mannered and ordinary husband that he is in fact an earl’s son -- an only son, at that. And if truth be told, Derek Harris is a false name under which he’s been living for years, as a form of rebellion against his tyrannical father. Derek is forced to tell Emma the truth for his father has summoned them to their famous family estate of Hailesham Park for a family reunion. Emma begs Lori to come with her to lend moral support. Lori’s husband Bill then drops a bombshell on Lori when he reveals that he is one of the earl’s attorneys, and as such they’ve both been invited there for the same reunion.
Lori hopes that this will be a peaceful holiday, unlike her previous perilous ones. From her diary, Aunt Dimity agrees and gives Lori helpful advice on the right manner in which to comport oneself at a grand estate such as Hailesham. But things soon go awry. Incidents which first appear as merely malicious and spiteful escalate into death threats. Poison-pen letters are the first clue, which start Lori investigating high and low. On the personal front, Lori begins to have problems as well, as Simon, Derek’s cousin, hits on her. Things worsen when people start getting injured, and Lori begins to entertain suspicions that her husband and Simon’s wife are having an affair. Aunt Dimity is the voice of reason amidst this chaos, but can she help find the culprit?
After seven previous Aunt Dimity novels, Nancy Atherton has slipped into a comfortable groove and once again spins a gentle mystery in her eighth addition to the Aunt Dimity series. As usual, Lori and Emma get involved head-over-heels in a mystery, and once again it is Aunt Dimity’s spiritual guidance which saves the day. Set in England like the previous Dimity novels, this particular mystery takes the readers to the grand estate of Hailesham. Detailed and lyrical descriptions give the readers the feeling that they’re actually standing inside Hailesham, watching the events unfold. Atherton also shows all the ceaseless hard work, both inside and out, that goes on behind huge and grand estates. The mystery itself is difficult, and readers will not find it easy to guess. Events move forward at a gentle pace, accelerating toward an end which comes as an absolute surprise. All in all, this book is charming, cozy and interesting.