I hesitate to tag this as a “mystery” though the author and publisher themselves list it as a mystery genre title. Moreover, look at the title of the series. The word “mystery” is in it. It’s pretty clear that’s what they think it is and – gosh darnit – I’m not going to not give them that tag. I’m not sure what genre it would be were it not classified as a mystery, to be honest. Is it a dreaded “women’s fiction” novel? (“Dreaded” because that somehow suggests general fiction books written by women and/or about women is somehow for women, leaving out the potential of them being for – hear me out here – everyone. Anyway, full disclosure, I also read books in the “women’s fiction” genre because I get it.) Is it magical realism? Is it general fiction? … I don’t know. I tagged this post #cottagecore and I suspect that’s probably the best way to think about it. It’s cottage core. Now, I’ve met the author and I’ve spoken with her – and I didn’t mention any of this, by the way – and I’m going to fully state for the record that Nancy would never think to call her book “cottage core.” I would bet a cold $100 American dollars that she’s never even heard the term. Nancy, if you’re reading this, let me tell you: Aunt Dimity is total cottage core.
In any case, the mystery of this novel, Aunt Dimity and the Enchanted Cottage, is light. As in, nearly non-existent. It’s what I’d classify as a “domestic mystery” in the sense that it’s about people who live in houses – not even slightly exaggerating – and figuring out something about them. It’s less a plot than a vibe. I think that’s why I think of it as cottage core. It’s less a lifestyle than a vibe, right? It’s an aesthetic and an aura and a feeling. That’s what Aunt Dimity and the Enchanted Cottage has: a vibe. It’s a squint and you’ll hardly see it mystery that takes place in a small village in England about the other residents of this small village. In a word it’s charming. Less the story than the whole vibe of it.
I will say this for the book and it’s not small feat: This is the twenty-fifth installment of the Aunt Dimity series. It relies a lot on knowing the other characters in the book sort of. It kind of knows that it does so it spends a lot of text filling you in the the backstories of all the characters who became residents who (probably, thought I can’t be sure. I just know how these series work.) were the focal point of the “mysteries” of previous installments. That’s no biggie really, except I wasn’t invested in any of their stories. They felt like filler in this book, yet had there been none of those nods to previous titles I suspect the readers of the series would have missed them. It’s the ultimate feel-good series in that way. It will never let you forget the characters you’ve loved if, indeed, you’ve read the previous installments.
It’s a breezy read in a delightfully charming setting with annoyingly nosy neighbors and a POV MC that I didn’t particularly like but it’s a charming book nevertheless. Seriously it’s like a yummy knitted shawl on a slightly chill day. You could go without it. A cardigan would probably warm you better, but the shawl has done its job. Plus, someone you care about probably knitted it for you.