When Lori Shepherd's husband, Bill, is summoned to a will reading at the Earl of Hailesham's resplendent Palladian home, Lori herself thinks she is just going along for the ride. But this gathering of the entire Hailesham clan, all of them affected by the earl's new will, devolves into a dangerous family dispute.
The aristocratic earl has called together the entire Elstyn family to disclose the beneficiaries of his fortune, and all present will be affected. When Bill and Lori arrive at Hailesham, the earl's grand Palladian country house, they find that a beautiful dove-shaped topiary on the grounds is ablaze. Is this an extravagant welcoming gesture or the work of an arsonist?
Later, a classic poison-pen note appears: Watch the birdie. It could happen to you. Leave Hailesham or it will. Someone has a grudge against the Elstyns and will stop at nothing to get revenge.
The burning topiary, a suspicious mail, family secrets, and threatening notes lead Lori to see her phantom Aunt Dimity's help in identifying the culprit before he or she can torch the whole house--with guests in it.
Atherton's signature whimsy and splendidly original twists make for yet one more delicious adventure with cozy-mystery lovers' favorite supernatural sleuth.
A thoroughly modern cozy . . . a very enjoyable read.
---The Washington Post Book World