Anyone who thinks of libraries as quiet safe refuges will think again after reading Miranda James' latest Cat in the Stacks mystery, No Cats Allowed. Libraries can be tough political worlds. Librarian Charlie Harris discovers how dangerous they can be in this engrossing story.
The library director at Athena College disappeared in January after apologizing that he overspent the budget by a half million dollars. It almost made sense for the college to put an assistant vice president of finance in place as interim director. Someone has to rein in the budget. But, Oscar Reilly is making too many enemies in that position. And, when he claims he's allergic to cats and doesn't want Charlie to bring his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, to the archives, Charlie's ready to take a leave of absence. Reilly has the entire staff in an uproar, so it isn't a surprise when his car is vandalized. And, Reilly seems to be the victim of some very cruel pranks that affect a number of people. But, murder is taking anger a little too far.
Someone may have targeted Oscar Reilly, but Charlie can't imagine that his childhood friend, Melba, is responsible. She would have no reason to vandalize her own office, so Charlie thinks someone is making her a scapegoat. And, the violence continues to escalate as Charlie himself becomes a target. It isn't long before he's demanding police protection for the library staff, setting an alarm at home, and keeping Diesel out of harm's way. As Charlie looks for answers, he doesn't worry about finding the killer. The police "would see justice done....The living were more important, and the library and its staff needed help to recover, not only from the ghastly murder, but from the budget crisis also."
James' latest novel revolves around strong emotions, and Charlie Harris is the perfect person to look into library problems, a man who cares deeply about the library and the people involved. There's a great deal at stake in this book, for the entire college. So, it's a relief when Diesel is present, chirping and warbling as the comic relief. James combines joyous family moments with the tense atmosphere surrounding the library and its staff.
Miranda James has created a tight little community in Athena, a community tied together by Charlie and Diesel. Together, they're the emotional heart of an enjoyable series. When readers talk about character duos, "dynamic duos who take on the world together", Charlie and Diesel are the perfect pair, a librarian and his cat who face politics, mystery and life in No Cats Allowed.
James' website is www.catinthestacks.com
No Cats Allowed by Miranda James. Berkley Prime Crime. 2016. ISBN 9780425277744 (hardcover), 275p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.