Aunt Dimity and the Summer King by Nancy Atherton Reviewed

Aunt Dimity and the Summer King by Nancy Atherton
Viking (240 pages)
April 14, 2015

Summer has returned to the tiny English village of Finch, and while Lori Shepherd should be enjoying the sunny countryside with her new baby daughter—or at the very least preparing for a visit from her husband’s odious aunts—she can’t help but obsess about Finch’s real estate crisis. Sure, it’s only two empty cottages, but Lori’s positive their continued vacancy is the result of a nefarious plot. Mind you, she has no idea who’s the architect of said plot or what it entails, but she’s determined to get to the bottom of the matter and save her beloved village if it’s the last thing she does.

Aunt Dimity and the Summer King is the perfect book with which to usher in the summer season. This 20th installment in Nancy Atherton’s utterly charming Aunt Dimity series is whimsical, welcoming, and warm with just a hint of magic. Her prose is witty, intelligent, and reads effortlessly. Her descriptions of people, places, and things are wonderfully evocative and paint an idyllic world you can’t help but wish you inhabited.

There are those who would complain Atherton’s mystery is too slight; none of the Aunt Dimity books contain murder, and this latest is no exception. I’d argue, however, that her tales are no less compelling for their mild-mannered nature, and that by writing the kind of mysteries one might actually encounter while living in a small town, Atherton manages to avoid the Cabot Cove syndrome that plagues so many traditional mystery series. While other writers introduce new characters just to kill them off, Atherton’s approach allows her to expand her universe book by book, one marvelous character at a time.

If you’re new to the world of Aunt Dimity, I highly recommend you read the first in the series, Aunt Dimity’s Death—not because you’ll be lost if you start with book 20 (you won’t, I promise), but because it’s one of my very favorite books. (Atherton’s debut was also named one of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association’s 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century.) Regardless of whether you’re a long-time fan or a member of the uninitiated, though, you should add this book to your TBR pile. Atherton’s a spellbinding storyteller, and Aunt Dimity and the Summer King is a thoroughly enchanting read.

Katrina Niidas Holm