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Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: 1992
My rating: 4 stars out of 5
Down-on-her-luck Lori Shepherd thought Aunt Dimity was a pretend character in her mother's bedtime stories ... until the Dickensian law firm of Willis & Willis offers the possibility of large inheritance -- if she can discover the secret hidden in letters between Dimity and her mother. Plus 1-pg recipe Beth's Oatmeal Cookies.
Aunt Dimity was a larger-than-life character in the cherished stories told by Lori’s late mother as Lori was growing up. Reeling from a divorce and now the death of her mother (the only family Lori had), Lori is finding that her strong-willed, stubborn streak has done nothing to help her in life. No husband. No decent job (specializing in rare books maybe wasn’t such a bright idea). Too often, no food!
On a cold, rainy day, Lori receives a letter from a law firm stating they need to talk to her right away. With nothing better to do than be hungry and miserable anyway, Lori sets out across the city to go see them. She arrives soaked and bedraggled at a majestic building, nestled in among the skyscrapers. Willis & Willis has been hired to draft estate documents and then manage the eccentric requests of their client, Miss Dimity Westwood. Only, to Lori, Miss Dimity Westwood is Aunt Dimity and she’s a fictional character in her mother’s stories.
Lori discovers that her mother Beth and Dimity were best friends dating back to when they worked in London together during WWII. As she digs into their pasts and their stories, she finds a sadness in both women that Lori was not expecting. She remembers her mother as someone almost intimidating in the the amount of joy with which she moved through life. Always happy. Always helping others. Seemingly perfect. And Aunt Dimity, as the star of her cherished childhood stories, could do no wrong. Lori learns that her mother was more like Lori than she ever realized and that both women harbored secrets.
On her journey to find answers, Lori is accompanied by Bill Willis, the son of the father/son law firm. At first, Lori is awful to Bill when he does nothing but treat her with respect and grace. The reader will need to bear through some time when you will simply not like Lori. In uncovering the secrets about the best friends, Lori uncovers quite a bit about herself and does grow a lot during the course of this first book in the series.
All in all, Aunt Dimity’s Death was a charming book. I appreciated that there was no murder in this book to make it a mystery. While I do enjoy a good cozy mystery, those series do all hinge on someone getting murdered generally. It was nice to have other mysteries to unravel rather than death for a change. Once I got past Lori’s objectionable personality… once Lori got past Lori’s objectionable personality… the book was quite enjoyable. Fortunately the other characters more than made up for her lacking while she came around. I think the premise of the series is darling and I am looking forward to reading more.