When a strapping young Australian named Jack MacBride arrives in Finch to wrap up his late uncle’s affairs, heads turn in the sleepy English village. But when Lori volunteers to help Jack clear out his uncle’s overgrown garden, they discover something even more shocking than a stranger turning up in Finch.
After Lori laughingly tosses a coin into the garden’s old well and makes a wish, she is baffled to find that the wish seems to have come true. Word spreads, and the villagers turn out in droves to make wishes of their own. But as they soon learn, one person’s wish is another person’s worst nightmare and the village is thrown into chaos.
As more and more wishes come true, Lori resolves to find out what’s really going on. Is handsome Jack somehow tricking his neighbors? Or are they fooling themselves? With Aunt Dimity’s otherworldly help, Lori discovers that the truth is even more marvelous than a magical wishing well. (Goodreads)
Ah, Finch! That lovely nearly-but-not-quite-perfect Cotswold village that’s home to Lori Shepherd and her family – and the ghostly Aunt Dimity. Nancy Atherton’s series has long been a favorite of mine for its warmth and optimism. The mysteries are the epitome of cozy; the majority of them contain no blood, no bodies, and often no real crime at all. Which is not to say that there is no mystery – but many of the mysteries are more in the way of puzzles.
In this book, the puzzle is the newly discovered wishing well. Is it real? And if not, why are people’s wishes coming true? Is someone fulfilling them on purpose, and if so, why — and how? As the granted wishes pile up, Lori begins to wonder if getting what you wish for is such a good thing after all.
Here’s what I loved:
- Atherton brings playfulness as well as a shrewd understanding to the old adage “Be careful what you wish for.” Most of the villagers’ wishes make perfect sense if you’ve been reading the series as long as I have, but one or two surprised me.
- Jack MacBride is a nice addition to Finch, and more memorable than his quiet uncle. I hope he sticks around. . . not least because there may be a romance brewing. (No, not with Lori, who is still happily married to Bill Willis.)
- Derek and Emma’s son Peter and his wife Cassie make their first appearance in the books in quite a while. I’ve had a soft spot for Peter since he was a boy in Aunt Dimity and the Duke (a prequel to the series), and I’m always glad when he turns up.
- We get to know some of the villagers better, both through their wishes and how they react when a wish comes true.
- The villager’s bonds of friendship and tolerance are tried by some of the events in the book, but ultimately it all works out and Finch returns to being the warm, neighborly place that Atherton’s readers love. I promise that’s not a spoiler — after all, you expect a cozy mystery to end happily! Besides, I’m keeping most of the solution and denouement secret – though you might figure at least some of it out partway through.
Here’s what made me less happy:
- The books are lighter than they were at the beginning of the series, in word count, complexity, and depth of feeling. I still enjoy them; when a new one comes out, I save it to read as a treat when I need the book equivalent of a nice cup of tea. But I do sometimes miss the strength of the earlier books.
- Bill, Lori’s husband, feels less substantial than in the early books. It’s very clear Lori still loves him, so I’m not sure why he has receded so much. Of course, he’s a lawyer and has to work while Lori is investigating, helping her neighbors, and mothering her twins, but still, I’d like to see him be more of a presence.
- I figured out some of the how of the mystery very quickly, though I wasn’t clear on why, and I certainly didn’t make the connections Aunt Dimity did.
Overall, Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well was a light, entertaining, and comfortably soothing read at the end of a stressful day. And that’s just what I was looking for.
Rating: 3.75 stars
Category: Cozy paranormal mystery
Series: Aunt Dimity #19
Publisher: Viking Adult
Release date: April 17, 2014
Book source: public library
Other reviews in this series:
Aunt Dimity and the Village Witch – review
About the author: Nancy Atherton is a dark-haired American with a generally unwrinkled face, a beaming smile, and hazel eyes, who lives in a plain house in Colorado Springs. She comes from a large, gregarious family (five brothers and two sisters!) and enjoys socializing as much as she enjoys solitude.
So if you are looking for her at a convention, don’t look for a stately grande dame in a flowery dress. Look for a woman in jeans and sneakers who’s bounding around like a hyperactive gerbil.
That’ll be her. And she’d love to meet you. (biography adapted from Goodreads)