Written by Nancy Atherton — Aunt Dimity first arrived on our bookshelves nearly 20 years ago with its main protagonist Lori Shepherd and her ghostly sidekick Dimity Westwood – aka Aunt Dimity – embarking on a series of mysteries. The Village Witch is the 17th book in the series, and as with all of its predecessors, it features a special recipe within its pages.
A new inhabitant has just arrived in the Cotswold village of Fitch, and it’s more than the local busybodies who seem to be interested in her. Amelia Thistle has moved to the village looking for a little peace and quiet, but she also has a very personal quest on her mind. However, a hidden secret might just put the kibosh on both.
Little do the residents of Finch realise, but they have a celebrity in their midst for Amelia is actually the renowned artist Mae Bowen. However, local art dealers Charles and Grant have already seen through her flimsy façade and are determined to help protect her true identity, aided by Lori and several other villagers who are sworn to secrecy. It’s not long before the reason why becomes apparent. A group of fanatical Bowenists descend on Finch determined to winkle her out of her hiding place. Realising that their own peace and quiet rests on these pests being removed from the village, operation Protect Amelia kicks in.
With the village on the alert Amelia and Lori can get down to the business of solving the mystery that Amelia’s late brother had tried to solve. This is a journey back to a time when wise women were frequently accused of practising the dark arts. Finch had its very own ‘witch’ known as Mistress Meg, and a secret memoir was written by the then vicar Gamaliel Gowland. He concealed it page-by-page around the village. Together, Amelia and Lori follow the clues to each hidden page in order to discover Margaret’s fate, and the role played by Gamaliel.
Dimity’s a rather unusual character, in that she plays a secondary role in the book and we don’t actually ‘see’ her, although Lori makes us aware of her presence. She’s there more in an advisory capacity and it’s to her that Lori turns when she’s needs a little guidance. Even with the ghostly presence, there is a feel of Agatha Raisin about this series, in that there’s a strong underlying humour running through the mystery. Lori, like Agatha, is quite a feisty character who is instantly likeable.
This is one of those series of books that is easy to slip in and out of without feeling you’ve missed anything. I liked the quirky addition of a brown bread recipe. If you are already familiar with the books you’ll be aware that there is a recipe included in each new mystery, so you can build up your own Aunt Dimity recipe book. Definitely one to add to the reading pile.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars