Friday, September 5, 2014

REVIEW: Aunt Dimity and the Duke by Nancy Atherton

Aunt Dimity and the Duke (An Aunt Dimity Mystery #2)Aunt Dimity and the Duke by Nancy Atherton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 1994
Genre(s): Cozy Mystery
Series: Aunt Dimity Series
Format: Paperback from Library
Narrated By: NA

Reading this book I realized I’ve come to an age where I appreciate a more mature heroine. I have mixed feelings about that but it is what it is. The heroine of this story, Emma Porter, is described as “forty, fat, frumpy and an amateur gardener”, and whether I like it or not, Nancy Atherton got me hooked with that description.

This is the second book in the Aunt Dimity series but it doesn’t fall in line with the first book (all different characters/settings then book one - I think - it's been a while). It has been so long since I read book one that I wasn't sure what the connection was but my impression is that it is a prequel that takes place when Aunt Dimity is still alive. It’s hard to say because the mild supernatural qualities still surround Dimity like an aura. These subtle supernatural elements are what make this series unique and charming. Aunt Dimity is sort of a Mary Poppins-like fairy godmother though Atherton keeps her mysterious and on the periphery of the stories. Basically this is a straight up hard core cozy mystery with an mild fairy tale flavor thrown in.

I really enjoyed this installment of the series more than the first book. It has a good set-up, a number of mysteries to puzzle through, a hint of the uncanny and a big old British estate perched on a cliff above the sea which has fantastic gardens. The gardens are designed around the ruin of an older castle and each of the castles “rooms” have been turned into a different type of garden. I was completely charmed by this idea and immediately starting shopping for ruins:). I think the first time I sat down with it, I read the first hundred pages so it really sucked me in and moved quickly.

There were some things I wasn’t crazy about and that slowed down my reading in the second half of the book. As with most cozy mysteries there is an element of romance as well and I thought this worked only okay. I don’t necessarily expect going into a cozy mystery that I’m going to get in depth character and relationship development but it is a bonus when these things are present. Unfortunately, Aunt Dimity and the Duke doesn’t really deliver on that score. The love interest is particularly sketchy and shallow and has the annoying habit of talking without personal articles. It’s a way of talking in fiction that I usually associate with bluff and elderly retired British military officers but apparently it’s a general characteristic of the nobility. For example: “Don’t know what to say old chum. Saw the dog running. Thought it was after a rabbit. Didn’t mean to shoot you.” It kind of makes me want to pull my hair out but that could just be me. More importantly perhaps is that there are a few pages at the very beginning where we are in the love interest’s head and then never again, so his interest in the heroine is a little mysterious. He doesn’t initially seem to even notice her and then all the sudden he’s into her. BUT, this is not a romance. It’s a cozy mystery so I got over it pretty quick. Because really this book ticks most of the boxes of things I’m looking for in a light, escapist read. Also I liked all the garden stuff.

Final Verdict: A satisfying cozy mystery enhanced by an awesome garden and a hint of the supernatural. A solid installment for this series.

This is entered as my Cozy Mystery

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