Aunt Dimity & the Summer King (Dimity #20) by Nancy Atherton
Pub. Date: April 14, 2015
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Viking!!)
Summary: There’s trouble in Finch. Four recently sold cottages are standing empty, and the locals fear that a developer plans to turn their cozy village into an enclave of overpriced weekend homes. But for once Lori Shepherd can’t help.
Her infant daughter, her father-in-law’s upcoming wedding, and the crushing prospect of her fortieth birthday have left her feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. Until, that is, she has a chance encounter with an eccentric inventor named Arthur Hargreaves. Dubbed the Summer King by his equally eccentric family, Arthur is as warmhearted as the summer sun. In his presence, Lori forgets her troubles—and Finch’s.
But Lori snaps out of her happy trance when she discovers detailed maps of Finch in the Summer King’s library. Next, a real estate agent comes knocking. Is Arthur secretly plotting Finch’s demise?
Genre: Contemporary, Cozy Mystery
Recommended for: Rainy weekends curled up with a blanket and cup of tea
Lori lives in the picturesque village of Finch. Sure, Finch might not have a booming nightlife – or even its own school – but Lori’s fine with that. She has a brand new baby, her father-in-law’s upcoming wedding, and a tight-knit community full of characters to entertain her instead. When a walk on an abandoned cart path leads her to the Summer King, Lori begins to feel her troubles melt away. No longer does she worry about the four cottages that just aren’t selling (and what that means for Finch, especially in terms of developers). That is, until the day she sees a map of Finch on the Summer King’s wall.
I want to start things off with a confession. While the Dimity series has always been on my radar (and you know how I love my cozy mysteries!), I had yet to read one and was a little hesitant when the publicist reached out to me. Could I possibly jump in with the twentieth book? Would the story be too far gone at that point that there would be no chance of ever catching up? Honestly, aside from a few initial moments of confusion (that were entirely my own fault and assumptions), Aunt Dimity & the Summer King gave me no fuss – I was able to jump right into the story and was easily brought up to speed with Atherton’s breezy Summary of Events-type backstory and introduction to the other residents of Finch. I’m actually wondering if long-time readers would be put off by this. Someone who’s already read the previous nineteen novels would be completely familiar with the town and its inhabitants and wouldn’t need a re-introduction with each book. So while that was great in my case as a newbie to the series, I’m a bit worried how other readers will fare.
ASSUMPTION #1: Aunt Dimity is the star of the show. The books are named for her, after all! Turns out she’s dead. And has been since the very beginning (in fact the first novel is actually titled Aunt Dimity’s Death.) Whoops! Part one of my confusion was with Lori as the main character. I wasn’t sure if she was simply a supporting star and later on Aunt Dimity would swoop in to solve whatever mystery lay ahead. Reading through the blurbs of some of the other novels it looks like Lori has been our girl since Day 1. The books focus on Lori while Dimity offers advice and friendship from beyond. Lori has a special notebook that allows Dimity’s words to come through. Okay, so that can get a little hokey, but I thought it was fun.
ASSUMPTION #2: There would be a murder to solve. Again, entirely my own fault. The other cozies I’ve read were all based on murders that the main character then goes about solving. Because of this I figured someone would turn up maimed or shot and it would be Lori and Dimity on the case. Here, however, Lori’s merely solving a riddle of just why these cottages aren’t selling and the answer goes back decades to a feud between Finch and its neighboring village. All these years later the bad blood is still there and Arthur Hargreaves, the Summer King, is right in the thick of it. In doing a bit of digging, it seems that death doesn’t always play a role in the Dimity series. Only a handful of books actually feature a murder, but the others are lighter in tone: Lori uncovers centuries-old family secrets, evaluates a book collection, discovers priceless jewels hidden away in an abbey, heads to America and the Rocky Mountains, does battle at a Renaissance fair, tracks down a neighbor’s long-lost brother, I could go on and on.
I know I’m breaking away from my typical review format with this one, but I think it works here. Going into Aunt Dimity & the Summer King, I had a feeling that I would enjoy it (A, it’s a cozy mystery and B, it’s from Viking) and enjoy it I did! I had such a great time with this one that I’m VERY eager to track down all nineteen other novels (the mother of all binge-reads?) and get started from the beginning. I would love to see how it all began: from Lori’s realization that Dimity was a real person (she had always assumed Dimity was a character her mother made-up) to the inheritance of the journal and cottage, to meeting Finch’s other residents as they move in. If you’re not already familiar with Dimity, don’t wait years like I did. Aunt Dimity & the Summer King is a quick and easy one-sitting read (and from what I can tell, the rest of the novels all hover around the 200-page mark as well) that was a ton of fun and full of great characters! Now if only I can find the time to read the rest (this is a valid excuse for calling off work for the next few weeks, right??)