Aunt Dimity, that garrulous, well-meaning ghost who communicates via automatic writing in a journal kept in the Cotswold cottage of Bill and Lori Shepherd, keeps thrashing her way off the bookshelf until Bill forwards her to Lori, who is up in Northumberland evaluating the private library belonging to newlyweds Jared and Nicole Hollander. The Hollanders’ manse, Wyrdhurst Hall, comes complete with a dungeon, a secret staircase, a portrait with peepholes drilled through the eyes, and, of course, a ghost of its own, who seems determined to possess poor Lori. In its former earthbound state, the ghost was Claire, in love with Edward, but separated from him by the Great War and the machinations of her papa. Claire’s spirit won’t be appeased until Lori finds herself lusting after a mysterious writer, cuddling up to an ancient teddy bear, encouraging Nicole to defy her bridegroom and tarry with a dashing army captain, and uncovering a cache of century-old love letters and a gem beyond price. Then it’s back to the Cotswolds, her rambunctious toddler twins, and her devoted husband before Aunt Dimity, like Raggedy-Ann, is reshelved till next time.
Like its predecessors (Aunt Dimity’s Christmas, 1999, etc.): sweetly nutty, with an England tailored to the measure of American Anglophiles, a heroine with gumption who’s still every inch a lady, and a ghost who dematerializes before she becomes annoying. A zippy update of the old-fashioned puzzler.