Nancy Atherton has written 16 Aunt Dimity books before this one, but Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince is the first one I’ve read. This was not a problem, as Atherton does a very good job of explaining the characters and their backgrounds. It is a light, easy, enjoyable mystery with an innocuous paranormal element..Ten years before this story begins, American Lori Shepherd inherited an English cottage from her mother’s best friend, who she calls Aunt Dimity. She also inherited a blank journal which she discovered allowed her to commune with the spirit of Aunt Dimity. She talks and Aunt Dimity writes on the blank pages in reply. The messages then disappear again. Dimity likes to keep up with the gossip and give Lori good advice. She may have played a much larger role in other books in the series, but in this one she is a charming but minor character.
Stuck in the cottage with her seven-year-old twin boys by dismal February weather while her husband is away on a business trip, Lori is desperate for something to do. So when her young neighbor Bree suggests a trip to a manor house which has become a museum of oddities, she eagerly agrees. There, Lori encounters a young girl who tells her a fanciful tale of a lost Russian prince in need of rescue. Only later, when the girl and her mother suddenly move away and a beautiful silver sleigh from the museum shows up in the girl’s donated pink parka at Lori’s charity shop (which we Americans call a thrift shop) ,Lori and Bree begin to wonder if there may be some truth in the girl’s tall tale and that leads to a mad adventure through great old houses among eccentric and wonderfully written characters.
This book would be completely suitable for young adults as well as older readers who enjoy a mystery similar to a grown-up version of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, mysterious enough to keep you guessing but not at all dark, violent, or disturbing. You will often find yourself laughing while also genuinely liking most of the people Lori and Bree come in contact with. This is a very good example of a “cozy” or “cottage” mystery and is likely to leave you wanting to start at the beginning and read the rest!