Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Aunt Dimity and The Lost Prince by Nancy Atherton (Viking)

If, like me, you're an Anglophile as well as a paranomal mystery aficionado, you will love this book. If you're neither of those, you will love this book. Nancy Atherton writes intelligently, honestly, and funnily ( yeah, yeah, I know humourously is the right word !). Her writing style is true and this 18th book in her Aunt Dimity series doesn't fail in any way. Her characters are human, her plots are delicious,and her sense of humour (note the British spelling !) is right on target. She never reaches for credibility on any level. Honestly, this is just the best series!

Aunt Dimity is the one who comes to Lori from the "other side" via writing. Reginald, Lori's stuffed bunny has gifts of his own and even if you don't have a big G (for gullible)  on your forehead, Aunt Dimity is just too wonderful to dismiss just because she's dead.

Lori Shepherd, the fearless, impulsive and oh-so-human sleuth, is an American who lives with her family in the Cotswolds in the charming and gentle town of Finch. Lori has a case of the February blues and snow has canceled school. She is in the house with rambunctious twin 8-year-old boys (wouldn't you know her husband is in Majorca on business?) when her young, energetic neighbor, Bree Prym, shows up at her house, asking for refuge for a week—or more!

Bree is an adventurous kind of girl and the boys love her. Her new spiky, bright red hairdo and announces her personality in no uncertain terms. She's compassionate but brassy and sassy, my kind of woman. Bree has a scheme to visit a nearby museum, Skeaping Mano, well-known for its awful displays of skeletons and shrunken heads. The boys, Will and Rob, will love it. (Lori is relieved to find that this ghastly museum also houses a fine collection of porcelain, silver, jade and woodcuts.)

Lori is upstairs in the museum soaking up art when she sees a young girl, maybe 9 years old, looking at a silver sleigh-shaped salt cellar. The daughter of the cleaning woman, Daisyl is frightfully thin and very different, but delightful. She and Lori have a most mysterious conversation about a Russian prince who is being kept against his will.

The next day, while volunteering at a thrift shop, Lori finds the girl's parka, and in the pocket is the silver sleigh. Lori wants to find Daisy so that she won't be accused of theft.  Oddly enough the museum's curator won't acknowledge the theft, and Daisy and her mother have left abruptly, leaving no forwarding address.

Lori and Bree have to dive right into the middle of this mystery and well, you'll just have to read the book to see what happens. I can assure you that you'll meet interesting people at each step.Their flaws and gifts are funny, if maddening at times, and Atherton's insights into the human character are true. The wise Aunt Dimity supports and guides Lori into acceptance of the quirky.

This is more than a good read. It's super, and there's a lot to learn about life, too.

—Dian Esterly

—FTC Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Murder, Actually by Stephanie McCarthy (Attica Books)

Elspeth Grey a recently divorced, "Queen of Deserts" romance writer, has moved to a small town to rebuild her life.  Her ex got the city home and she got the cabin in All Hallows, a sleepy New England town. The local bookstore is hosting a reading for Elspeth’s latest book.  It is a dark and stormy nigh,t and when the lights go out no one is surprised when they come back on to reveal a murder.  It is not just any murder, but the murder if Jasper Ware, Elspeth's nemesis.

Elspeth is a reluctant detective.  Her mystery loving friend, Julia, insists they can solve the murder ands hire the two of them out as detectives. Julia acquired her investigative skills from fictional sleuths, so it is a good thing that Elspeth has a sense of humor and self preservation skills.  Elspeth keeps reminding her friend she is a romance writer, not a mystery writer.  There are plenty of suspects and of course a little romance with a scheming ex-husband and fiancé, some handsome locale hunks.

This was a very enjoyable cozy, the characters seemed real  and there were a lot of clues, including some to confuse you for a surprise ending.  I look forward to the next book in this new series.

—Helen Jones

FTC Disclaimer: This book was provided by the author.