No Cats Allowed
Cat in the Stacks, Book #7
By Miranda James
Author’s website: http://www.catinthestacks.com/
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
In the latest mystery in the New York Times bestselling Cat in the Stacks series, librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat Diesel must clear a friend when the evidence is stacked against her…
Springtime in Mississippi is abloom with beauty, but the library’s employees are too busy worrying to stop and smell the flowers. The new library director, Oscar Reilly, is a brash, unfriendly Yankee who’s on a mission to cut costs—and his first targets are the archive and the rare book collection.
As annoying as a long-overdue book, Reilly quickly raises the hackles of everyone on staff, including Charlie’s fiery friend Melba—whom Reilly wants to replace with someone younger. But his biggest offense is declaring all four-legged creatures banned from the stacks.
With enemies aplenty, the suspect list is long when Reilly’s body is discovered in the library. But things take a turn for the worse when a threatening e-mail throws suspicion on Melba.
Charlie is convinced that his friend is no murderer, especially when he catches sight of a menacing stranger lurking around the library. Now he and Diesel will have to read between the lines, before Melba is shelved under “G” for guilty…
No Cats Allowed is my favorite of the first seven Cat in the Stacks Mystery Series. There are many reasons that this is one of my ‘cat’ cozy mystery series for several years. From the gorgeous cover art consistent with others in series, to the characters and plots, there is nothing in this package to distract from its value. First there is Diesel, the large, empathic Maine Coon cat, and Charlie, who Diesel chose to be his ‘person’. Equally as enticing is watching Diesel interact with others. Including those at the college where Charlie works part time with the library rare books and archives. This mystery is tantalizingly complex and gives the brain cells a good run, as is the analysis that Charlie puts into determining who the bad guy/ gal could be.
Charlie and his grade school friend Melba are enduring an interim department head since the last director, Peter, quit without notice. It was later discovered that he had overcommitted the library budget by more than half a million, and cuts need to be made ASAP. The interim director, Oscar, is not a nice man, and he comes with a finance instead of library background.
Oscar was busy with HR, either because he files complaints against employees or they lodge complaints against him. The one raising Charlie’s blood pressure is that he could no longer bring Diesel to work with him as the Oscar claimed to be very allergic to cats, in spite of no sneeze, wheeze, or sniffle. Diesel is well-known and loved on the campus, and Charlie had the routine in place with Diesel since Diesel chose Charlie.
To cut the budget, Oscar was closing the rare book and archive portion of the library and selling off the treasured historical tomes and documents, many donated by local families and alumni. Melba would be sent to another department. Before that could be implemented, however, Oscar was found dead. He had either fallen into the collapsing shelves after hours or been pushed. They need another interim Director, and the President of the college asks Charlie to fill the role. The only benefit Charlie could see is that he can ask more questions that might help him discover who killed Oscar before the threats against him become reality.
Charlie is the kind of man I would want to work for and have as a friend. First, because of a mutual love for cats and second, learning how he thinks through challenges, whether it be something work related or solving mysteries in or outside the workplace. He is caring, helpful, has the work ethic I grew up with, a detail man without being OCD, and a Southern gentleman. He is tied with Diesel for first place of those I enjoy in the book. It would be so exciting if all our cats were able to sense in humans what he does, as his reactions are usually spot-on. He and Charlie are as close as the bond can be between man and feline, even to the point of one calming the other during times of stress. I love the changes in Charlie’s family members, and enjoy watching their dialog with others, including Azalea and Melba.
The plot is complex in that there are no simple solutions to any of the bad guy/ gal stuff going on, from the man parking outside the library to the murder to the budget problems. The author has made part of the setting something near to many employees these days: layoffs and closures, budget, and an obnoxious department head. The mysteries woven around these situations are what make who the author is in the cozy mystery genre: matching unique likable characters, a loyal cat (or dog), and a mystery that requires the kind of protagonist who is highly detailed with a typically calm demeanor except when falsely accused or demeaned. There are surprising plot twists that kept this reader on her toes, until I was almost suspecting an entire department! I had mixed feelings about the person I most suspected of the crimes, waffling between absolute certainty and denial. Walking through each scenario with Charlie allowed this reader to arrive at the same conclusions he does. The novel has been thoroughly planned and beautifully executed with all loose ends tied up. I highly recommend No Cats Allowed and any other books in the series you may have missed. Those who enjoy well-plotted, complex mysteries, Southern hearts, a bit of history, excellent characters and Diesel.