Authors: Nancy Atherton
NA N C Y AT H E RT O N
p e n g u i n b o o k s
Praise for Nancy Atherton and her
Aunt Dimity Series
“A humorous, satisfying cozy with exceptionally likable characters.”
“For those who consider Nancy Drew the ideal sleuth . . .
Atherton’s books are perfect.”
Rocky Mountain News
“With its delightfully descriptive imagery and quirky characters, the twelfth novel in Atherton’s series is the ultimate cozy mystery. Along with its humor comes a well-plotted and engaging story that holds your interest till the very last word. It’s great fun to read about Lori’s newest adventure, helped along by ghostly intervention from Aunt Dimity.” —
Romantic Times Book Reviews
“A pleasant, easy series, just the ticket to ease out of a stressful day.”
Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine
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.”
“I adored it. . . . Just sit back and take a breather while immersing yourself in something a little fun.”
Aunt Dimity and the Next of Kin
“Atherton’s series is for those who like the puzzle of a mystery minus the corpses.This is a book entirely without edge, cynicism or even rudeness, and the characters are so nice you can’t just dismiss them—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
“Fans of cozy mysteries won’t want to miss this one.”
The Romance Readers Connection
“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, and for good reason. . . . The quality of this series never runs down.”
The 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. . . .
A romp and a half, just the thing to veg out on when life gets too much, and you want to escape into a book.”
The Lincoln Journal Star
“The perfect tale for a cold winter’s night.”
“Fans of this series will be delirious with joy. . . . This series is among the best of the cozies, and this book is my personal favorite. . . . What a treat!”
The Kingston Observer
“A thoroughly modern cozy . . . classic cozy elements abound.
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. . . . Profoundly comforting.”
The Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer
“Entertaining, comforting, and charming.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Nancy Atherton is a simply wonderful writer. Her descriptions of the British moors are breathtaking, and her protagonist, Lori Shepherd, is appealing and sexy.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Aunt Dimity’s Christmas
“Here is a rarity: a book with a Christmas theme that is an engagingly well-written literary work.”
Rocky Mountain News
“The coziest cozy of them all.”
Aunt Dimity’s Good Deed
“Atherton has a whimsical, fast-paced, well-plotted style that makes this book a romantic and graceful romp.”
“Nancy Atherton is the most refreshingly optimistic new story-teller to grace the shelves in years. . . . charming!”
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.”
about the author
Nancy Atherton is the author of twelve previous Aunt
Dimity mysteries.The first,
Aunt Dimity’s Death,
“one of the century’s 100 favorite mysteries” by the In-
dependent Mystery Booksellers Association. She lives in
Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Visit the spirit of Aunt Dimity
NA N C Y AT H E RT O N
pe n g u i n b o o k s
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NewYork 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2007
Published in Penguin Books 2008
Copyright © Nancy T. Atherton, 2007
All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Set in Perpetua
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Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
my friends in the Colorado Mountain Club,
who’ve taken me to new heights
hunder rolled and lightning stabbed the sky. Sav-
age waves battered the cliffs, and stinging rain
lashed my face as I sprawled across the stoney
ground, hurt and helpless.A figure loomed above me, a dark-haired man with eyes as black and fathomless as the pits
of hell. He raised a pale hand, to point at me.There was a
blinding flash, a deafening explosion—
—and I woke up, heart racing. My blankets were a
tangled mess, my pillows damp with sweat.With a sob-
bing gasp, I sat up in bed and stared into the darkness.
The night was calm and peaceful. A summer
breeze wafted through the bedroom’s open windows,
and an early bird chirped in the back garden, as if to
announce to all and sundry that it had successfully
gotten the worm. I heard no thunder, no crashing
waves, and the brightest light in the sky was a faint
smudge of gray heralding the dawn. I wasn’t sprawled
at the edge of a storm-battered cliff, at the mercy of a cold-blooded killer. I was safe at home.
My husband cleared his throat as he rolled over and
propped himself up on an elbow.
“Again?” he said, caressing my back.
“Yeah,” I managed shakily.
“I’ll make a cup of tea for you.” Bill fell back on
his pillows and rubbed his tired eyes, then heaved
himself out of bed and reached for his bathrobe.
“You don’t have to,” I said hastily. “I’m okay now,
“A nice cup of tea,” Bill murmured sleepily. He
stepped into his leather bedroom slippers and padded
softly into the hallway.
Stanley, our black cat, took advantage of the open
door by trotting into the bedroom and vaulting grace-
fully into my lap for a morning cuddle. He purred
softly as I stroked the sweet spot between his ears.
Calmed by his soothing rumble, I closed my eyes and
released a tremulous sigh.
Six weeks had passed since an obsessed lunatic
known as Abaddon had put a bullet just below my left
collarbone at point-blank range, nicking an artery and
shredding a ridiculous amount of muscle tissue.A host
of excellent doctors had helped to heal the garish hole
Abaddon had left in my body, but they’d so far failed to repair the damage he’d done to my peace of mind.
For the past month and a half, my moods had swung
like a giddy pendulum, shifting from listless to restless, from cranky to weepy, without rhyme or reason, at
least fifty times a day. Sleep brought no respite because with it came nightmares, except that in my case there
nightmare, the same vivid reliving of heart-chilling horror, night after night after night.
It was hardly surprising. For the past seven years,
my husband and I had lived an idyllic life in a cozy,
Aunt Dimity Goes West
honey-colored cottage amidst the picturesque, patch-
work fields of rural England. Although we were
Americans, the nearby village of Finch had become
our own. Our five-year-old twins had been dandled
on every knee in Finch. Bill was an honored member
of the darts team at the pub. I arranged flowers at the
church, brought casseroles to elderly neighbors, and
swapped gossip with the fluency of a native. We were
a normal family engaged in commonplace activities,
none of which had prepared us in the slightest for the
terrifying events that had spawned my nightmare.
I’d never dreamed that an insane stalker would
threaten to kill me and my family. I’d never dreamed
that Bill would send me and the boys to a remote Scot-
tish island for our own protection. I’d most assuredly
never dreamed that Abaddon would find the island,
kidnap the twins, and try to murder me in the midst
of a Force 9 gale. It wasn’t the sort of thing I could
have dreamed, until it happened. But once it hap-
pened, I could dream of nothing else.
I was sick of it. Abaddon was dead and gone, killed
by a providential lightning bolt that had jolted him
into the roiling sea, but he lived on in my mind, a
deranged squatter who ignored insistent demands for
his departure. I was desperate to evict him because
he was making a mess of the place and the mess was
hurting everyone I loved.
My bouncing, effervescent boys had emerged un-
scathed from their encounter with Abaddon, but they’d
taken to tiptoeing around the cottage and speaking in
unnaturally hushed voices because “the bad man hurt
Mummy.” Annelise Sciaparelli, the boys’ inestimable
nanny, walked on eggshells in my presence because she
never knew from one moment to the next whether I’d
burst into tears, snap her head off, or lapse into a mo-
rose silence. My husband, a high-priced attorney with a
well-heeled international clientele, had taken so much
time off from work that half of his clients thought he’d retired or died.And I was so addled by sleep deprivation that I couldn’t muster the energy to arrange flowers,
visit my elderly neighbors, or contribute my fair share
to the great chain of gossip that connected everyone in
Finch. My world would never spin smoothly on its axis
again until I rid myself of Abaddon once and for all, but I didn’t know how to make him leave.