Introducing Aunt Dimity, Paranormal Detective: The First Two Books in the Beloved Series (Aunt Dimity Mystery)

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9780143116066: Introducing Aunt Dimity, Paranormal Detective: The First Two Books in the Beloved Series (Aunt Dimity Mystery)

An irresistible introduction to everyone's favorite bestselling cozy mystery series. Watch out for Nancy Atherton's latest, Aunt Dimity and the Widow's Curse, coming in May 2017 from Viking!


Over the course of her New York Times bestselling series, Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity has become enormously popular. Now, with the first two mysteries in one volume, Introducing Aunt Dimity, Paranormal Detective makes it easy to get a taste of the ghostly sleuth's delightful debut. In Aunt Dimity's Death, Aunt Dimity's American niece, Lori Shepherd, had long thought her mother's childhood tales of Aunt Dimity were merely comforting bedtime stories. But when a pair of lawyers informs her that her mysterious aunt has just died and made the down-on-her-luck Lori a rich woman, she finds a reason to believe. Aunt Dimity and the Duke finds the benevolent spirit helping Emma Porter--forty, fat, and frumpy--tame a Duke's overgrown garden and discover romance along the way. These two tales continue to enchant Atherton's devoted fans and, packaged together, are sure to attract even more new readers to the series.

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About the Author:

Nancy Atherton is the bestselling author of twenty-two Aunt Dimity Mysteries. The first book in the series, Aunt Dimity's Death, was voted "One of the Century's 100 Favorite Mysteries" by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Aunt Dimity Slays the Dragon

“One of the most charming entries in an enduringly popular series.”

Booklist

Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter

“One of Aunt Dimity’s most suspenseful mysteries. Loyal fans will be thrilled by every new revelation.”

Kirkus Reviews

Aunt Dimity Goes West

“Just the ticket to ease out of a stressful day.”

Deadly Pleasures

Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea

“The eleventh Aunt Dimity mystery is testament to the staying power of Atherton’s cozier-than-cozy premise.. . . Rainy Sunday afternoon reading.”

Booklist

Aunt Dimity and the Next of Kin

“This is a book entirely without edge, cynicism or even rudeness—this is the way life really ought to be if only we were all better behaved. Put on the teakettle and enjoy.”

Rocky Mountain News

“This is Atherton at her coziest.. . . Fans of the series will not be disappointed.”

Over My Dead Body! (The Mystery Magazine)

“Cozy mystery lovers wouldn’t dream of missing an entry in this series.”

Kingston Observer

Aunt Dimity: Snowbound

“Witty, engaging and filled with interesting detail that will make the cottage-in-the-English-countryside fanciers among us sigh.. . . Just the thing to veg out on when life gets too much.”

The Lincoln Journal Star

“The perfect tale for a cold winter’s night.”

Publishers Weekly

“Fans of this series will be delirious with joy. . . . What a treat!”

Kingston Observer

Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday

“A thoroughly modern cozy . . . The setting is delicious. . . . A very enjoyable read.”

The Washington Post Book World

Aunt Dimity: Detective

“Atherton’s light-as-a-feather series is an excellent example of the (cozy) genre’s traditions.”

The Seattle Times/Post-Intelligencer

“Entertaining, comforting, and charming.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil

“Nancy Atherton is a simply wonderful writer.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Aunt Dimity’s Good Deed

“Atherton has a whimsical, fast-paced, well-plotted style that makes this book a romantic and graceful romp.”

Houston Chronicle

Aunt Dimity and the Duke

“Nancy Atherton is the most refreshingly optimistic new storyteller to grace the shelves in years.. . . Charming!”

Murder Ink

Aunt Dimity’s Death

“A book I thoroughly enjoyed in the reading and which leaves me richer for having met charming people with the courage to care and in places we all visit, at least in dreams.”

—Anne Perry

A PENGUIN MYSTERY

Nancy Atherton is the author of fourteen Aunt Dimity mysteries, many of them bestsellers. The first book in the series, Aunt Dimity’s Death, was voted “One of the Century’s 100 Favorite Mysteries” by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Introducing Aunt Dimity, Paranormal Detective

THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE BELOVED SERIES

Aunt Dimity’s Death
AND
Aunt Dimity and the Duke

NANCY ATHERTON

Table of Contents

Aunt Dimity’s Death

One

When I learned of Aunt Dimity’s death, I was stunned. Not because she was dead, but because I had never known she’d been alive.

Maybe I should explain.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me stories. She would tuck me in, sit Reginald in her lap, and spin tale after tale until my eyelids drooped and I nodded off to sleep. She would then tuck Reginald in beside me, so that his would be the first face I saw when I opened my eyes again come morning.

Reginald was my stuffed rabbit. He had once had two button eyes and a powder-pink flannel hide, but he had gone blind and gray in my service, with a touch of purple near his hand-stitched whiskers, a souvenir of the time I’d had him try my grape juice. (He spit it out.) He stood nine inches tall and as far as I knew, he had appeared on earth the same day I had, because he had been at my side forever. Reginald was my confidant and my companion in adventure—he was the main reason I never felt like an only child.

My mother found Reginald useful, too. She taught third and fourth grade at an elementary school on the northwest side of Chicago, where we lived, and she knew the value of props. When the world’s greatest trampoline expert—me—refused to settle down at bedtime, she would turn Reginald around on her lap and address him directly. “Well, if Lori doesn’t want to listen, I’ll tell the story to you, Reginald.” It worked like a charm every time.

My mother was well aware that there was nothing I loved more than stories. She read the usual ones aloud: How the Elephant Got Its Trunk, Green Eggs and Ham, The Bluebird of Happiness, and all the others that came from books. But my favorite stories (and Reginald’s, too) were the ones she didn’t read, the ones that came from her own voice and hands and eyes.

These were the Aunt Dimity stories. They were the best, my mom’s special treat, reserved for nights when even back-scratching failed to soothe me into slumber. I must have been an impossibly restless child, because the Aunt Dimity stories were endless: Aunt Dimity’s Cottage, Aunt Dimity in the Garden, Aunt Dimity Buys a Torch, and on and on. My eyes widened with excitement at that last title—I was thrilled by the thought of Aunt Dimity preparing to set out for darkest Africa—until my mom reduced my excitement (and the size of my eyes) by explaining that, in Aunt Dimity’s world, a “torch” was a flashlight.

I should have guessed. Aunt Dimity’s adventures were never grand or exotic, though they took place in some unnamed, magical land, where a flashlight was a torch, a truck was a lorry (which made Reginald laugh, since that was my name, too), and tea was the sovereign remedy for all ills. The adventures themselves, however, were strictly down-to-earth. Aunt Dimity was the most mundane heroine I had ever encountered, and her adventures were extraordinarily ordinary. Nonetheless, I could never get enough of them.

One of my great favorites, told over and over again, until I could have told it myself had I wanted to (which I didn’t, of course, because my mother’s telling was part of the tale), was Aunt Dimity Goes to the Zoo. It began on “a beautiful spring day when Aunt Dimity decided to go to the zoo. The daffodils bobbed in the breeze, the sun danced on every windowpane, and the sky was as blue as cornflowers. And when Aunt Dimity got to the zoo, she found out why: All the rain in the world was waiting for her there, gathered in one enormous black cloud which hovered over the zoo and dared her to set foot inside the gate.”

But did that stop Aunt Dimity? Never! She opened her trusty brolly (“umbrella,” explained my mother), charged into the most drenching downpour in the history of downpours—and had a marvelous time. She had the whole zoo to herself and she got to see how all the animals behaved in the rain, how some of them hid in their shelters while others bathed and splashed and shook showers of droplets from their fur. “When she’d seen all she wanted to see,” my mother concluded, “Aunt Dimity went home to warm herself before the fire and feast on buttered brown bread and a pot of tea, smiling quietly as she remembered her lovely day at the zoo.”

I suppose what captivated me about Aunt Dimity was her ability to spit in life’s eye. Take Aunt Dimity Buys a Torch: Aunt Dimity goes to “Harrod’s, of all places” to buy a flashlight. She makes the mistake of going on the weekend before Christmas, when the store is jam-packed with shoppers and the clerks are all seasonal help who couldn’t tell her where the flashlights were even if they had the time, which they don’t because of the mad crush, and she winds up never buying the flashlight. For anyone else it would have been a tiresome mistake. For Aunt Dimity, it was just another adventure, one which became more hilarious floor by floor. And in the end she goes home to warm herself before the fire, feast on buttered brown bread and a pot of tea, and chuckle to herself as she remembers her day at Harrod’s. Of all places.

Aunt Dimity was indomitable, in a thoroughly ordinary way. Nothing stopped her from enjoying what there was to enjoy. Nothing kept her from pursuing what she came to pursue. Nothing dampened her spirits because it was all an adventure. I was entranced.

It wasn’t until I was in my early teens that I noticed a resemblance between Aunt Dimity and my mother. Like Aunt Dimity, my mother took great delight in the small things in life. Like her, too, she was blessed with an uncommon amount of common sense. Such gifts would be useful to anyone, but to my mother, they must have proved invaluable. My father had died shortly after I was born, and a lapsed insurance policy had left her in fairly straitened circumstances.

My mother was forced to sell our house and most of its contents, and to return to teaching much sooner than she’d planned. It must have been a wrench to move into a modest apartment, even more of a wrench to leave me with the downstairs neighbor while she went off to work, but she never let it show. She was a single mother before single mothers hit the headlines, and she managed the job very well, if I do say so myself. I never wanted for anything, and when I decided to leave Chicago for college in Boston, she somehow managed to send me, without a moment’s hesitation. Around me, she was always cheerful, energetic, and competent. Just like Aunt Dimity.

My mother was a wise woman, and Aunt Dimity was one of her greatest gifts to me. I can’t count the number of times Aunt Dimity rescued me from potential aggravation. Years later, when nearsighted old ladies ran their grocery carts over my toes, I would recall the very large man who had stepped on Aunt Dimity’s foot at Harrod’s. She guessed his weight to within five pounds. She knew because she subsequently asked him his exact weight, a scene which left me convulsed with giggles every time my mother recounted it. Remembering that, I found myself guessing the eyeglass prescriptions of my grocerycart-wielding little old ladies. Though I never had the nerve to confirm my estimates, the thought made me laugh instead of growl.

By all accounts, I had a naturally buoyant spirit as a child and the Aunt Dimity stories certainly helped it along. But even naturally buoyant spirits sink at times. Mine took a nosedive when I found myself living the bits that never appeared in the Aunt Dimity stories: the bits when there was no wood for the fire and no butter for the brown bread, when all the lovely days turned dreary. It was nothing unusual, nothing extraordinary or exotic or grand, nothing that hasn’t happened a million times to a million people. But this time it happened to me and it all happened at once, with no space for a breath in between. I was on one of those downward spirals that come along every once in a while and suddenly nothing was funny anymore.

It started when my marriage dissolved, not messily, but painfully nonetheless. By the time we sat down to draw up papers, all I wanted was a quick, clean break—and that was all I got. I could have stuck around to fight for property settlements or alimony, but by then I was tired of fighting, tired of sticking around, and, above all, I despised the thought of living off a man I no longer lived with.

I faced the Newly Divorced Woman’s Semiobligatory Wanderjahr with no sense of adventure at all. About to turn thirty, I had little money, less energy, and absolutely no idea of what I wanted to do next. Before moving to Los Angeles, where my former husband’s job with an accounting firm had taken me, I had worked in the rare book department of my university’s library. I moved back to Boston, but by the time I arrived, my old position was gone—literally. The humidity control device, installed at great expense to protect the rare book collection from the ravages of time, had gone haywire, causing an electrical fire that no amount of humidity could extinguish. The books had gone up in smoke and so, too, had my prospects for employment.

Getting a new job in the same field was out of the question. I had no formal library degree, and the curator, at whose knee I had learned more about old books than any six library school graduates combined, was an opinionated maverick. A personal recommendation from Dr. Stanford J. Finderman tended to close doors rather than open them, and I soon discovered that the job market for informally trained rare book specialists was as soft as my head must have been when I’d first decided I could make a living as one. Had I known what the future held in store for me, I would have gone to motorcycle mechanics’ school.

My mother wanted me to come home to the safe haven of our yellow-brick apartment building in Chicago, but I would have none of that. The only motherly assistance I would accept was a steady supply of home-baked cookies, mailed Federal Express and packed to withstand a nuclear blast. I never mentioned how often those cookies were all that stood between me and an empty stomach.

I stayed with a friend from college days, Meg Thomson, until the divorce was final. She introduced me to the wonderful world of temping and as soon as I’d registered with a reputable Boston agency, I struck out on my own. With high hopes, I joined the ranks of the urban pioneers—mainly because the only apartment I could afford was located in what real estate agents like to call a “fringe” neighborhood.

I can confirm the rumor about the poor preying upon the poor. Two weeks after I’d moved in, my place was ransacked. The intruder had apparently had a temper tantrum when he discovered that I was just as impoverished as the rest of my neighbors. I came home to an unrecognizable heap of torn clothing, splintered furniture, and a veritable rainbow of foodstuffs smeared decoratively across my walls.

That was pretty disheartening, but the worst part was finding Reginald. The boon companion of my childhood had been slit from cottontail to whiskers, his stuffing yanked out and strewn about the room. It took me three days to find what remained of his left ear. I interred him in a shoebox, too sickened to attempt his repair, knowing that my clumsy needlework could never match the beautiful stitches that had helped him survive an adventuresome bunnyhood. On the fourth day, shoebox in hand, I moved out, beginning what was to become a long sequence of moves in and out of apartments which, if not exactly squalid, were still a far cry from my predivorce standards of domestic comfort. In April of that year, an ad in the Cambridge Tab led me to share an apartment with two other women in a three-decker on a quiet street in West Somerville. I’d just settled in when my mother died.

There was no warning. The doctor told me that she had died peacefully in her sleep, which helped a little, but not enough. I felt that I should have bee...

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