Arsenic and Old Books
Cat in the Stacks #6
By Miranda James
Author’s Website http://www.catinthestacks.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
In Athena, Mississippi, librarian Charlie Harris is known for his good nature—and for his Maine coon cat, Diesel, that he walks on a leash. Charlie returned to his hometown to immerse himself in books, but taking the plunge into a recent acquisition will have him in over his head…
Lucinda Beckwith Long, the mayor of Athena, has donated a set of Civil War-era diaries to the archives of Athena College. The books were recently discovered among the personal effects of an ancestor of Mrs. Long’s husband. The mayor would like Charlie to preserve and to substantiate them as a part of the Long family legacy—something that could benefit her son, Andrew, as he prepares to campaign for the state senate.
Andrew’s rival for his party’s nomination is Jasper Singletary. His Southern roots are as deep as Andrew’s, and his family has been bitter enemies with the Longs since the Civil War. Jasper claims the Long clan has a history of underhanded behavior at the expense of the Singletarys. His allegations draw the interest of a local reporter who soon asks to see the diaries. But she mysteriously vanishes before Charlie has a chance to show them to her…
Now Charlie is left with a catalog of questions. Even if the diaries turn out to be fakes, they could still be worth killing for. One thing is certain: Charlie will need to be careful, because the more he reads, the closer he could be coming to his final chapter…(Goodreads)
As the archive and rare books librarian at the local Athena, Mississippi, college, Charlie Harris is excited to receive a collection of Civil War era diaries from the mayor’s husband’s family. The mayor hopes that authenticating and preserving the diaries will reiterate the Long’s long standing position in the community and reinforce her son Beck’s chances of becoming a state senator. Charlie has barely taken possession of the diaries when Marie, an assistant professor who is confident the diaries will be her ticket to tenure, and Kelly, a free-lance writer, both want exclusive access to the diaries. Kelly, who is secretly engaged to Beck’s political rival Jasper Singletary, hopes to find evidence that will tarnish Beck’s family’s reputation and thus help Jordan’s chances of winning the senate seat. However, before anyone can take a look, the diaries are stolen, and Marie is a victim of a hit and run accident. Even stranger, Mayor Long conveniently finds another volume of the diaries, but when the other books are returned to Charlie with pages removed, he finds discrepancies in their content. Do they contain long hidden family secrets that could ruin both the Long and Singletary families? He does what he can to assist the police in solving both Marie’s murder and uncovering the mysteries held within the diaries.
I thoroughly enjoyed this sixth installment in the charming Cat in the Stacks series. This was a nice mixture of murder mystery, political intrigue, and Civil War history. James’ writing is fluid and easily read. The pacing is suitable to the story and atmosphere, and there was not much superfluous information or scenes. Even so, most of the recurring characters do appear at one point or other, and the series-long story arc (Charlie and Helen’s relationship as well as other characters’ personal lives) continues here. Kanesha, the sheriff’s deputy, seems much more tolerant of Charlie’s involvement in this outing, and I hope they will continue to work well together in the future. The resolution of the secrets in the diary for both the Longs and Singletarys, was interesting and realistic.
Charlie is one of my favorite cozy mystery protagonists. Being male makes him a bit unusual in the genre. He is an appealing, old-fashioned Southern gentleman, intelligent with a kind and caring demeanor. Diesel, his Maine Coon cat, is also a great addition to the series. He possesses no supernatural powers nor does he solve the mysteries himself, but he is one delightful companion for Charlie. It is no wonder that everyone in town loves this large feline. I enjoyed reading their “back story” in the bonus short story included with the novel.
This is one of my much loved series, and I look forward to each new installment. Arsenic and Old Books is the first of the series to be released in hardcover, which I hope is an indication that there are many more mysteries for Charlie and Diesel to solve coming in the future. I recommend this to fans of cozies with a bookish bent and those featuring felines.