I first read this book not long after it first came out way back in the 90s. Upon re-reading it recently, I have to say I learned that I gave it way too little credit back then.
The book, and the series for that matter, is quite unusual for the Cozy Mystery genre. There are lots of differences from the standard Cozy. One is that the books are mostly shorter than the norm for today. Aunt Dimity’s Death is listed at 196 pages. I know we have discussed the length of modern Cozies before (see here and here for a couple of our earlier discussions) — with many of you suggesting that you want the books to be longer – in the 300 page or longer vicinity. However, I find this book to be refreshingly short.
Oddly enough, even though the book is short, the pacing is leisurely. This is not a Cozy for those of you who want the murder to be in the first two chapters! In fact, although there are mysterious goings on in the first half of the book, I don’t think the real mystery that needs to be resolved is revealed until somewhere approaching half-way into the book!
Another difference is that the series has a number of books where there is no murder at all to solve. I don’t think I am giving too much away to suggest that in this first book of the series, the mystery is not a murder but rather is one of love and separation, and guilt and regret.
I understand now why this series is so often recommended and is so beloved by its fans. The series began in 1992 and the newest book, number 22 of the series, will be released this year. Nancy Atherton only releases about one book a year – another unusual fact for a modern Cozy author!
The book is charming; it tells a beguiling story of a little girl now grown up, a friendship that was sustained only by letters for decades, a woman who had lost everything including her faith in humanity, a haunted English cottage, and the spirit of “Aunt” Dimity who was filled with regret and guilt but whose love for her friend’s daughter leads to both her and the daughter learning again the power of love, friendship and laughter.
Yes, there is a paranormal aspect to this series. However, in re-reading Aunt Dimity’s Death I was surprised by what a relatively small role the paranormal played in the story. Normally, I am not one for paranormal mysteries, but, to me, in this book the paranormal was both literally and figuratively “magical”.
If you are in the mood for a charming and whimsical mystery with a touch of paranormal and a large dose of heart, I heartily recommend Aunt Dimity’s Death.