Arsenic and Old Books

Arsenic and Old Books
Title:  Arsenic and Old Books (Cat in the Stacks 6)
Author:  Miranda James
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date:  2015
ISBN:  978-0-425-25729-6

Book Summary:
Charlie Harris, librarian and book scholar, enjoys the leisurely pace of life in Athena, Mississippi.  His quiet existence is often interrupted by the attention he gains from walking his Maine Coon cat Diesel on a leash, but when Mayor Lucinda Long asks Charlie to preserve and validate four recently discovered Civil War-era diaries from a Long family ancestor, chaos arises.  In addition to possibly providing a great deal of insight about life in Athena during the Civil War and the soldiers who fought for the Confederate Army, the books may also be a valuable asset to Mayor Long’s son Beck in his campaign run for the State Senate.  Just as the Long family epitomizes the wealthy and privileged of Athena, Beck’s biggest rival in the Senate race, Jasper Singletary, represents the less fortunate and poorer members of the community.  Jasper is also interested in what information the diaries hold, as he is hoping for some concrete evidence of the underhandedness of the Long ancestors and their dishonest treatment of the Singletary family.

Two other interested parties surface when the diaries’ discovery is revealed:  Kelly Grimes is a news reporter searching for an inside scoop on the heavily contested Senate race, and Marie Severton is a professor in the history department at Athena College who views her analysis of the contents of the diaries as her last chance for tenure.  Both ladies are very insistent at their requests to privately view the diaries, and Charlie begins to feel both political and personal pressure.

When the diaries are stolen from Charlie’s office, it becomes clear that there is much more at stake than just the facts that the diaries contain.  When the diaries suddenly reappear and a fifth volume of the diaries surfaces, a deadly accident occurs.  It becomes imperative that Charlie read the diaries and share their content and implications with the police.  Other interested parties also are vested in the contents and a woven game of cat and mouse ensues.  Who will benefit from the diaries’ secrets and who is willing to keep the revelations secret at any cost?

Book Commentary:
This is the sixth book in the Cat in the Stacks series, and it truly is a delightful and quiet series.  Miranda James is actually a pseudonym for Dean James and there is a subtle nuance in this cozy mystery series that is not seen with female writers.  I really like the straight-forward writing style, and as the protagonist is male, his voice really comes through.  Charlie Harris is a librarian so the mysteries are all book based, and I especially enjoy how the history of a book or author figure into the mystery.

Of course, another huge draw is the character of Diesel, the Maine Coon cat.  He really has a personality of his own, and although he isn’t involved in the solving of the mystery – which I appreciate – his presence adds to the development of other characters in the story as they interact with him.

Who might like this book:
This particular book has a Hatfield and McCoy type feel and it is fascinating to see how old grudges, lies, and deceits can still infect our modern society.  The male protagonist voice comes through as a refreshing departure from some other cozy mystery series, and any cat lover will appreciate and enjoy Diesel.  This book also contains a bonus short story of “When Charlie Met Diesel.”

The series in order is:
Murder Past Due
Classified as Murder
File M for Murder
Out of Circulation
The Silence of the Library
Arsenic and Old Books


One thought on “Arsenic and Old Books


    Kristin, You got me hooked on the Cat in the Stacks Mystery. Glad there is a new one. I’m almost to the end of the books available at our library. Thanks!



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