Muse du Jour

My name is Marianne Plumridge. I am an artist of mythic fantasy works and fine art images. I also satisfy my creative muse with sewing, cooking, writing and reading. These are my thoughts and adventures with whichever muse drives me each day. You can find more of my art at

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Location: New England, United States

Monday, January 08, 2007

Mystery and Aunt Dimity...

I discovered a new author last month: Nancy Atherton. While running an eye over the bargain tables at the local bookstore, to see if there were any unknown authors (unknown to me, that is) that I could try without spending huge scads of money. My gaze came to rest on a red cover with inset artwork. Incongruously, the artwork had a little pink stuffed bunny in it. That made me smile - a tough prospect lately, what with numerous life situations causing difficulties. Then I looked at the title and groaned inwardly. "Aunt Dimity". It had to be one of those cute and fluffy 'cozies' that seemed to be churned out by the dozens. Curbing my criticism and admonishing myself not to judge before I looked at it, I picked it up to peruse anyway. Hmm. Set in England - great; puzzle and history involved - even better; and that pink bunny - so I'm a sucker for cute! I took it home - maybe I needed something fluffy and cozy in my life about then.

The book was called "Aunt Dimity and the Next of Kin". And it wasn't a murder mystery, which is a change for me. It's more of a puzzle - a quest if you please - with history and a hint of scandal and secrets. Nothing suits me better than digging through history conundrums; I was hooked.

The protagonist was a woman named Lori Shepherd who was not only flawed, but intriguingly so. Behind the strong-willed, curious Lori is a heap of the usual insecurities, underlined by an earlier life of hardship, deprivation, bitterness and desolation. In the first book, "Aunt Dimity's Death", Lori is more or less 'rescued' from her old life by the death of a beloved person whom she knew only as a character in a story. In a combined legacy left by her dead mother, Beth, and the disturbingly real Dimity, Lori undergoes a quest of sorts to solve a two-pronged mystery/tragedy that dates from World War II and intimately involved both Beth and Dimity. With the help of both junior and senior incarnations of the Willis & Willis law firm in Boston, Lori journeys to the village of Finch in England. With Willis Junior (Bill) in tow - he has a quest of his own - Lori has an unlimited expense account and someone to butt her stubborn head against. Constantly at loggerheads, the two discover the answers to the puzzle and an unlikely love. And Lori makes some realizations about herself along the way - and the two women who loved her, who reach beyond the grave to help her find redemption.

Oh, did I mention that being dead doesn't stop the inimitable Dimity from taking an active role in Lori's activities? Her spirit infuses the cottage she leaves to Lori, and she converses with Lori via the blank pages of a blue-covered journal. Oh, and the pink bunny is called Reginald - and he has his own history, not to mention the odd adventure of two. It's quite an achievement to instil personality into what amounts to an inanimate stuffed animal.

Throughout all eleven books (soon to be twelve), Lori is on a progressive journey. She has a huge heart, a loving husband, and eventually twin boys of her own. But before that gets too cloying in a 'cinderella' sense, you also find out that Lori also has "a wandering eye" when it comes to "wounded princes", the "patience of a gnat", and an indomitable spirit and enthusiastic curiosity that knows no bounds - or fear.

I fell in love with Lori's world. Enough to trot my coupons over to the bookstore and plonk down money for more of Ms. Atherton's books. I also received more for Christmas. I sat up until 3am of 26th December after hearing of the death of my Uncle Keith on Christmas night. The books brought me a comfort I didn't know I needed. So I read one every evening until after the funeral in Australia the following Friday morning. They stopped me from feeling too hollow and bereft because I couldn't be there. I found a little bit of me in Lori, and the funny things that happened to her - masking the very real tragedies that lay beneath the humour. I also found a fondness for the unforgettable characters that infuse her life. As she found her soulmate, so did I.

My wombat - ingenuously named Wombat - is no match for Reginald, but he's just as cuddly and comforting. So's my husband, Bob.

Thank you, Ms. Atherton, for sharing Dimity, Lori, Bill, Reginald and all of the rest. I have only one thing left to say..."Keep writing"!

Oh, did I mention that each book comes with a recipe that is mentioned in each narrative? I recommend "Lillian's Lemon Bars" and "Miss Beacham's Raisin Bread". Bob just LOVES the raisin bread. You can find more about Dimity, Lori and company at . Recipes too.

So, dear reader, till nextime...


Blogger Deborah Misfit said...

Hello - you need to read the rest of the Aunt Dimity series - you will love them! Trust me I have since I started them just a short time ago when she was at about book 6! Enjoy!

8:43 AM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi Deborah,

Oh yes! I have gone back to read and collect all of the Aunt Dimity mysteries. :-D And to re-read them. These books are keepers. They may seem like light fiction when you first start reading them, but they say a lot of social and psychological things about the characters and the readers.

The recipes are killer great too!! :-D

Thanks for stopping by,

10:22 AM  
Blogger Abi said...

I love Aunt Dimity and I got my sister and a couple of friends hooked too! This is a great post Marianne.

And yes, please, Nancy Atherton...keep writing Aunt Dimity!!!

1:23 PM  
Blogger Jared's dish said...

hi there

found your blog while googling aunt Dimity...i am a fan as the way Nancy Atherton, through Lori, describes the food, places, homes, clothes, etc,..oh and the
..i would really love to see all of this on film

4:22 AM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi Jared's Dish!

Welcome. Glad you liked the review and Aunt Dimity too! :-D I met up briefly with Nancy back in Denver last year. She's such a nice lady, and always awestruck how her novels affect people.

Thanks for stopping by,

2:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I, too, have just discovered the Aunt Dimity books and am loving them. I am originally from Scotland and love reading English style mysteries so this was a great comfort to me now living in Arizona, a million miles from the coziness of Finch. Only read 2 of the books and have 4 more from the library to look forward to in the next week or so. :)

3:30 AM  

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