Aunt Dimity, the author’s unflappable, always with-it ghost-sleuth (Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil, 2000, etc.), is still writing directives that appear and quickly disappear in her niece Lori Shepherd’s journal. While Lori’s been away with her husband Bill and their two-year-old twin sons, there’s been a murder in their tiny hometown of Finch. The victim, relative newcomer Prunella Hooper, has been found dead in Crabtree Cottage—for which, strangely, she pays no rent to owner Peggy Taxman. Aunt Dimity encourages Lori to work with recently arrived Nicholas Fox, nephew of Lilian Bunting, the vicar’s wife, in looking for the killer. They soon find a plethora of motives for the demise of Pruneface, whose days were evidently incomplete without regular spots of blackmail and the spreading of vicious rumors. She had accused stablemaster Kit Anscombe of abusing his employer’s teenaged daughter Nell; retired railwayman George Wetherhead of having an affair with town sorceress Miranda Morrow; and pub owner Dick Peacock of buying smuggled liquor. In due time, Lori and Nicholas also uncover the reason for Peggy Taxman’s generosity in the sad history of her life before Finch.
The solution, when it finally arrives, is barely believable, but fans of Aunt Dimity are as unlikely to complain about the lightweight, easy-flowing entertainment as they are to remember it two weeks later.