Miranda James' delightful Cat in the Stacks mystery series moves to hardcover with the publication of Arsenic and Old Books. All of the books combine mystery in a small college town with a charming Southern gentleman librarian who owns Diesel, a talkative Maine Coon cat. Or, as cat lovers would say, Charlie Harris is owned by Diesel. The mysteries are atmospheric with a close-knit cast of characters. In this case, James adds a fascinating search through Civil War diaries for the answer to a contemporary investigation.
Charlie Harris is thrilled when Lucinda Beckwith Long, the mayor of Athena, Mississippi, donates four volumes of family diaries to the archives at Athena College. But, before he can do anything but add the gift to the archival records, two women show up demanding access to the Long family diaries. One is a history professor desperate for tenure. The other is a writer, wanting to search them for ammunition in a political race involving two native sons, Beck Long and Jasper Singletary. Charlie is horrified when the diaries are stolen from his office. But, when the theft is followed by a hit-and-run death, Charlie fears someone is desperate. Is Charlie's job of preservation and research putting him at risk?
James' latest mystery is engrossing, blending political skulduggery, Civil War stories, and a murder investigation. Charlie's job in the archives comes front and center in this novel, and it's key to the story. Arsenic and Old Books is an absorbing mystery, the story of people whose good intentions go wrong.
The other essential element in these mysteries is Diesel. He's always at Charlie's side as a companion who attracts attention wherever they go. Diesel is appealing, and he's recognized and beloved around town. Diesel is present throughout Charlie's adventures. And, as a bonus element in this book, James tells the story of the first meeting of Diesel and Charlie.
A lovable, entertaining cat, Civil War diaries, small town secrets, politics, crime. Miranda James successfully incorporates all of those elements in the engaging mystery, Arsenic and Old Books.
Miranda James' website is www.catinthestacks.com. Or visit James' Facebook page at Facebook.com/mirandajamesauthor.
Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425257296 (hardcover), 293p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.