This second title in the Cottage Tales series is just as charming as the first, "The Tale of Hill Top Farm." Set in England's Lake District in the early 1900s, each episode centers on the pastoral lifestyle found in Near and Far Sawrey. But even in a rural landscape, bad things can happen. Children's author Beatrix Potter, now a farm owner and part-time Lake District resident, helps to solve the mysteries that confound the people of her new hometown. She's aided by animals -- her own pets, the other domesticated animals of the community, and the wild ones who live nearby. The result is the kind of book Potter herself might have written for adults, if she had had the time and inclination.
After reading the first book, I realized I didn't know much about Beatrix and her children's books, so I read "Beatrix Potter: Artist, Storyteller, and Countrywoman" by Judy Taylor. (Another book that I highly recommend.) Now I can see that Susan Wittig Albert is tackling and mastering three tasks at once: weaving a ficticious mystery; setting it closely against biographical and historical fact; and sprinkling the story with the kind of animal insight and "dialogue" found in Potter's original tales. The result is a wonderful and engaging narrative that is simply a joy a read. Yes, it's "cozy," but it's also more comfortable and familiar than others of that genre.
Though she's been gone for more than 60 years, Beatrix Potter's spirit lives today: not only in the reprints of her own work, but also in this new series by Albert. How lucky for us!