The Silence of the Library, Miranda James
This is the fifth book in the "Cat in the Stacks" series. I posted about the fourth, Out of Circulation, back in February, but I had to wait until the TBR Dare was over to read this latest. As I have mentioned before, "Miranda" is actually Dean James, whom I've known for many years through Houston's Murder by the Book. I just read recently that one reason he writes under noms de plume is because anyone searching on-line for information about "Dean James" is going to get pages and pages of "James Dean" first.
The central characters of the series are Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat Diesel. Charlie is a librarian and archivist in the small town of Athena, Mississippi. A widower, he lives in the family home he inherited, with his son and daughter, as well as two boarders who are part of the extended family. Three of them have been suspects in the past cases that Charlie has investigated, and they're frequently drawn into the new ones.
Like the previous book, this one is set around the Athena Public Library, where Charlie volunteers one day a week. For the annual Library Week celebrations, he and the director, Teresa Farmer, are planning an exhibit featuring the author Electra Barnes Cartwright. Mrs. Cartwright is the creator of the Veronica Thane books, a series whose main character is a beautiful young orphan with a roadster. She solves mysteries with the help of her best chum Lucy and her devoted swain, the athletic and handsome Artie Marsh. (The book includes excerpts from the first Veronica Thane story, The Mystery at Spellwood Mansion, which Dean obviously had fun writing.)
Charlie and Teresa are surprised but delighted to learn that Mrs. Cartwright is still alive, at age 100, and living near Athena. They are even happier when she agrees to appear at the library during the celebrations. The news that she is alive and well, and will be appearing in public for the first time in decades, sets off a shock-wave among the devoted fans of Veronica Thane. Readers and collectors of her books descend on Athena. Rumors of unpublished manuscripts begin to circulate, which could set off a bidding war. And then one fan is murdered, and the extensive files this person kept on Mrs. Cartwright disappear. When Charlie's phone number is found near the body, the police come calling.
This is another fun mystery, particularly for those like me who grew up with Nancy Drew and other young Sherlock Holmeses. Charlie includes Cherry Ames on that list, since in the later books in her series, she spent as much time solving mysteries as she did nursing patients. As a long-time member of internet fan groups, I also enjoyed Dean's knowing portrait of the Veronica Thane fans in action. And I appreciated the fact that in this book, the victim's death came as something of a surprise. In many books, it is all too clear who the future victim will be, either because he/she is the rudest and most abrasive person in the whole book; or because he/she keeps talking about holding some crucial piece of evidence.
This book includes an excerpt from another Dean is writing, which will feature the Ducote sisters from the previous story. Dean told me that he is having fun writing it, and that he feels like he is in an episode of "Designing Women." I'm looking forward to reading it, and the further adventures of Charlie and Diesel as well.