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by Nancy Atherton
Viking, April 2014
278 pages
ISBN: 0670026697

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Poor Hector Huggins has died, and the whole village of Finch is at the funeral. Not because they all knew and loved him, but because they didn't. He was quiet and reclusive; nobody really knew him. But it would be a terrible thing if his funeral was unattended. Dreadful. So almost everyone in town is there, in the pouring rain and the muck. At the very last minute, a car speeds up and an Adonis in shorts and sandals jumps out and comes leaping over the low stone wall, announcing that he is Mr. Huggins's nephew from Australia, here for the funeral. Nobody even knew Mr. Huggins had a nephew!

The gossips in town go nuts, including Lori. Jack MacBride seems to be fairly open - he has no qualms about telling anyone and everyone that he is here to settle his uncle's affairs. Again, nobody knew his uncle had enough affairs to require much settling. There was, come to find out, a lot more to Mr. Huggins than anyone knew. His garden, which appears to most people as an overgrown monstrosity, is a carefully cultivated refuge for birds, insects, and wildlife. His ivy-covered house is spare but well maintained and quite lovely in its interior simplicity. Best of all, in the middle of the garden is a wishing well. Nobody really believes that making a wish will change anything - superstitious nonsense.

Then wishes start coming true. Lori wishes the rain would stop; it does. Her gardening friend with the horse stables finds the perfect couple to run the business end of things so she can go back to gardening, at least more than she has been able to lately. The local baker gets a write-up in a magazine, complete with pictures and the like. A local artist discovers a rare find in the throw-aways his partner leaves for him to sort and put away. One of the local women has a chance to share her space with a "real" artist, her photographer niece. All sounds wonderful - but who hasn't heard the phrase, "Be careful what you wish for"? As more and more wishes come true, there is more and more chaos, ill-feeling, and down-right unpleasantness in Finch.

Lori has been consulting Aunt Dimity all along, and Aunt Dimity is convinced that there is something else at work in Finch. For as ephemeral as Aunt Dimity may be, she is a pragmatic woman who doesn't believe the whole wishing well phenomenon is happening without some kind of help.

This is Atherton's 19th AUNT DIMITY book; she knows her territory well. Finch is full of stereotypes; stereotypes with meat on their bones and more to them than one might at first think. Atherton writes with humor about her characters, and with tender care. No matter how obnoxiously they behave, inside each one is a core that ultimately comes to the forefront. When Atherton first started this series, she had a hard time selling it because it crossed so many genres. Yes, it's a mystery, although not a murder. It's a romance. It's got big-time woo-woo elements. It's very cozy. After nineteen books, it's still all of those things, and still Atherton is a pleasure to read.

P.J. Coldren lives in northern lower Michigan where she reads and reviews widely across the mystery genre when she isn't working in her local hospital pharmacy.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, June 2014

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