*Editor's note: Here's another great review from Ariel Heart, this time of an audio book! And just in time for Hallowe'en, it's of an Aunt Dimity ghost mystery! Enjoy.
Aunt Dimity Beats The Devil by Nancy Atherton (narrated by Christina Moore)
Lori Shepherd is on her way to the creepy Wyrdhurst Castle in northern England to appraise a large private library. Traveling in bad weather, Lori narrowly escapes a landslide that sweeps her Range Rover away. Finally arriving at isolated Wyrdhurst after being rescued by a charming stranger, Lori is embroiled in a haunted castle with the resident ghost influencing her to act uncharacteristically, finds tales of forbidden love, murder and hidden treasure amidst the secret passageways and massive library. Are there really ghosts on the third floor scaring the young owner, Nicole, or is a real person behind it? There is something afoot at Wyrdhurst and Lori – with a little help from the ghostly Aunt Dimity communicating through an innocent journal – is just the person to uncover the past and clear up the present.
I chose the audio version and I must say that Christina Moore is phenomenal as the narrator. The entire book comes to life as Christina subtly changes character voices employing accents, cadence and tone. Without any sound effects, Christina Moore performed the story rather than just read it and I quickly felt like I was listening to a riveting old time radio theatre.
The writing style is flowing and very effective as this opening section demonstrates:
“It was a dark and stormy afternoon on the high moors of Northumberland. A cold October rain battered the Range Rover’s roof and the fog was as thick as porridge. I hoped my hosts at Wyrdhurst Hall would hold high tea for me, because it looked as though I might be a bit late.
Thanks to the murky weather, I’d almost certainly missed the turnoff for Wyrdhurst’s gated drive. To judge by the Rover’s lurching progress, I’d somehow left the paved road altogether and veered onto a narrow, muddy track that seemed to be climbing straight into the clouds.
I could do nothing but climb with it. The moorland rose steeply to my right and fell sharply to my left. There was no place to turn around and I had no intention of backing down a road I could barely see.”
Aunt Dimity books are very cozy. The murder is often in the past but the story still carries the reader along. The main character, Lori, is bright and determined yet with realistic faults. The story employs the use of old letters discovered hidden in books to piece together the history of a teen girl, Claire, raised in the castle who fell in love with a young man whom her father refused to accept and the resulting sad chain of events and hidden treasure yet to be found. There is some fine layering of subplots past and present that make this a bona fide delight of a read.
If you are looking for a classic style tale with the remote setting, creepy atmosphere that isn’t horror or too scary, this is the book for you – and consider the 6 CD audio version as an added treat. But note that this is still an adult book and although mild in violence it is not suitable for younger readers because of “adult themes” that are raised in the story. The ending is satisfactory although one aspect I felt had little, if any, evidence presented prior.
Four out of Five Cozy Armchairs!
About the reviewer:
Ms. Heart is a