Tag Archives: Miranda James

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

Four on Friday: COZY MYSTERIES, PART 1

Wicked Weaves One Bad Apple Fatal Fixer-Upper Murder Past Due


So . . . to mix things up a little, every Friday I will list of four things.  Hope you enjoy and I would love to hear feedback.

In honor of Labor Day weekend, I thought I would focus on some lighter mysteries.  Cozy mysteries can be described as a light-hearted crime fiction.  There is usually little sex and violence, the stories often have a lot of humor, the setting is a small, socially intimate community, the detective is most often an amateur, and there is a often a common theme – knitting, cats, home repair, etc. – that is ties the series together.

I have a personal love-hate relationship with cozy mysteries.  I like how they are often quick, fun reads.  These are books that I can pick up and put down often, and I still can figure out what is happening in the story.  I read a number of cozy mysteries but rarely remember the plot from story to story.  The books are enjoyable in the moment but don’t have any lasting memories.  What I dislike about cozy mysteries is that after a few books, the feasibility and believability have run their course.  Seriously, how many murders can occur at a single small inn.  If that were the case, I don’t think the inn would get all that many customers!!

That being said, they are fun, quick reads; perfect for sitting by the pool and relaxing in the sun.  Here are four that I have enjoyed

Sheila Connolly – Orchard, Museum, County Cork
I discovered Sheila Connolly a long time ago and I really like the diversity of her mysteries.  She has written four different series, three of which I regularly follow.  She does a nice job at developing interesting and dimensional characters, and each of her series display a depth of knowledge about her specialties.  I have enjoyed reading about the steps in maintaining an apple orchard, the role of fund-raising in a non-profit museum, and the proper way to pull a pint.

The Orchard mysteries focus on Meg Corey who is trying to earn a living by owning and running an apple orchard in rural western Massachusetts.  The series starts with One Bad Apple, and seven more follow with the eighth one coming out this October.

The Museum mysteries tell about Nell Pratt, a fundraising chair at a prestigious historical museum in Philadelphia.  The stories include a lot of real places that would be familiar to those who know Philadelphia.  The series starts with Fundraising the Dead, and 5 more follow.

The newest series, Country Cork mysteries, takes place in Ireland.  Upon the death of her grandmother, Maura Donovan travels to County Cork and begins work in a pub.  She learns of her own past and meets many characters full of flavor and personality.  The first book is Buried in a Bog, and there are two more.

Joyce and Jim Lavene – Renaissance Faire
Joyce and Jim Lavene are a husband and wife writing duo that might be the most prolific authors I have ever read.  Under their own name and two additional pseudonyms, they write eleven different cozy mystery series.  I have read a number of them, but the one I have stuck with the longest is the Renaissance Faire series.  The setting of an open year-round Ren Faire provides a wealth of humor, crazy situations, and eccentric characters.  I think the earlier books in the series are stronger, but they are all just fun.  If you have ever been to a Ren Faire, you will find a lot of the people and situations very believable!

Jessie Morton is an assistant college professor who spends her summers at the Ren Faire apprenticing to the different trades to build on her knowledge of the guilds and crafts of the Middle Ages.  There are eight books beginning with Wicked Weaves.  Huzzah!

Jennie Bentley – Do It Yourself
There are a number of “how to” cozy mysteries – how to scrapbook, how to knitting, how to bargain shop, and so on.  Jennie Bentley’s series focus on home remodeling and renovations.  What I like about this series and what seems to be sometimes hard to find in this genre, is how the author blends the “how to” with the story.  The mystery takes precedent over the “how to” and information and instructions don’t seem to detract for the plot.

Avery Baker was a New York textile designer who came to Maine after inheriting her aunt’s cottage.  After renovating the cottage . . . and solving a murder . . . she decides to stay.  The first in the series is Fatal Fixer-Upper and there are six more that follow.

Miranda James – Cat in the Stacks
You knew I had to include a cat mystery series, and there are a lot of them out there!  I enjoy Miranda James’ Cat in the Stacks series for a number of reasons.  First, the protagonist, Charlie Harris, is a widowed librarian; it is rare to see a male protagonist in a cozy mystery and I like the different perspective.  Second, the cat in the series, Diesel, is a Maine Coon.  He is a big cat, who walks on a leash, and is full of personality.  I also like how although Diesel is an integral part of the stories, he doesn’t solve the cases.

Charlie is a librarian with all the style of a southern gentleman, and many of the books focus on his work with a specific title or a collection.  The series starts with Murder Past Due and five more follow.

So, what do you think of cozy mysteries – yea or nay?  Any others you enjoy?