Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Murder Past Due by Miranda James

Give me a cozy mystery.  Set it in the South.  Make the main character a librarian who owns a cat.  If I could have given Miranda James the elements for a plot, all of my favorite features would have been used in the first Cat in the Stacks mystery, Murder Past Due.  And, cat lovers are going to love Diesel, the cat in this book.

Charlie Harris' wife and favorite aunt died within a few weeks of each other three years earlier.  When he inherited his aunt's house, and her housekeeper, Azalea Berry, he returned to his hometown, Athena, Mississippi.  Now, he divides his time between a cataloging job at the university library, and a volunteer position at the public library.  And, he takes in boarders, college students.  This year's is a freshman, Justin Wardlaw, taken in as a favor to a friend, Justin's mother, Julia.

It's another former classmate, Godfrey Priest, who stirs up the town.  The bestselling author has returned home.  He'll speak at the university, wants to give his papers to the library, but also has other reasons to be there.  Charlie never liked Godfrey, but he didn't dislike him as much as so many other people do.  So, when Godfrey ends up dead, Charlie isn't a suspect, even though Azalea's daughter, Deputy Kanesha Berry, thinks he interferes too much.  She just doesn't know he's prying because her mother asked him to talk to people who might not talk to Kanesha.  And, he has reasons to pry.  His boarder is at the top of the suspect list.

Charlie also has an easy way to talk to people.  He walks his Maine coon cat, Diesel.  And, Diesel is welcome everywhere, from the library to the bookstore and the bakery.  Diesel gives Charlie a way to start a conversation.  It seems there are a number of people who actually wanted Godfrey Priest dead.  But, whose emotions led to murder?

I feel sorry for Charlie Harris.  Despite his friendships, he's a lonely man.   His amateur sleuthing gives him the opportunity to talk to people.  And, I felt even sorrier for this likable man at the end of the book, when the killer was revealed. 

As much as I liked librarian Charlie Harris, though, the star of this book is Diesel.  And, he's no more than a cat.  He's not a talking cat, or a mystery-solving cat.  He's a big, lovable cat, with a purr as loud as a motor, hence the name.  Read Murder Past Due for the mystery, and an enjoyable amateur sleuth.  And, it's fun to recognize Charlie's favorite mystery authors.  But, as much as anything, you'll find yourself wishing for the next book to catch up with Diesel.

Murder Past Due by Miranda James.  Berkley Prime Crime, ©2010. ISBN 9780425236031 (paperback), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me the book,  in hopes I would review it.


Ingrid King said...

Great review, Lesa! I loved this book, too, and Diesel definitely makes the story. I'm looking forward to the next one in the series.

Dean James said...

Wow, Lesa and Ingrid! You've really made my day. I'm so delighted at this wonderful reception of Charlie's and Diesel's first outing.

Miranda (aka Dean) James

Kris said...

Sounds like a good cozy..and who could pass up a story with a good animal character too!

Sheila Beaumont said...

Enjoyed your review, Lesa. I loved "Murder Past Due" too. You're right, Diesel is the star! I'm looking forward to reading more about Diesel and Charlie.

Lesa said...

I knew you were going to love Diesel, Ingrid. He's a pretty special cat, isn't he? I'm looking forward to the next one as well.

Lesa said...


And, we'll be looking forward to your guest blog when you get a chance.

Thank you! I think your book is going to have a positive reception from my audience. I have a number of cozy mystery readers that stop by.

Good luck with Murder Past Due!

Lesa said...

Great animal character, Kris. And, he's a cat. He doesn't talk. He doesn't solve the mystery. He's a terrific cat.

Lesa said...

I'm looking forward to more about Diesel and Charlie, too, Sheila. Good start to the series, wasn't it?

dollycas aka Lori said...

I loved this book too and want to read much more about Diesel, oh and Charlie too, of course.


Lesa said...

Great, Lori! Sounds as if Charlie and Diesel are a hit with readers. Everyone is waiting for the next book.

Beth Hoffman said...

Loved your review, Lesa. And I also loved the name of the cat! Diesel is a darling name.

I'll be sure to check this book out.

Lesa said...

Diesel is based on an actual cat, Beth! The author does a guest blog on Thursday, and told about the first Diesel, the role model for this one. No matter what, you'll fall for Diesel.

Sandra (GWR member) said...

Dear Dean, I enjoyed Murder Past Due as well, as much as your earlier cozy mysteries. Dieses is great and has a great personality. He takes just the right kind of interaction in the book without 'overpowering it with fictional CAT power' or something ^__^

I just miss the gay part in this new book. Of course, you said you now aim to reach a wider audience than only the gay fiction readers but can't there be some gay chara taking a part? I thought about Charlie's son! He seems to be in trouble and Charlie hopes he will come back home - how about him?

Still, even so I will read your new series and enjoy it a lot. And I very much care for the cover - it's terrific !!!

Thank you! Sincerely, Sandra

Lesa said...

Thank you, Sandra. I don't know if Dean will be back at this date to read comments, so I'll be sure to pass it on to him. Thanks.