Classified As Murder, Miranda James
Miranda James is actually Dean James, a former manager at Houston's outstanding Murder by the Book. This is the second book in his "A Cat in the Stacks" series, following last year's Murder Past Due.
There are two main characters in the series. The first, Charlie Harris, is a librarian who recently moved from Houston to Athena, Mississippi. There he works part-time at the local library, and part time in the archives and rare book collection of Athena College. The second main character is Diesel, a Maine Coon cat. Like most Maine Coons, Diesel has an outsized personality, exceptional intelligence, and overflowing charm. Diesel goes everywhere with Charlie, including the libraries (except to church on Sundays), and he seems to be Charlie's main emotional connection.
The story centers around an elderly eccentric, James Delacorte, who has amassed an amazing collection of rare books, which he hires Charlie to inventory for him, in part because he believes someone may be stealing from it. The prime suspects are his extended family of Southern gothics, which includes a hoop-skirted belle with a tenuous hold on reality but also includes a perfectly Jeevish butler. Charlie has his own family issues to deal with when his son Sean arrives unexpectedly, with a poodle in tow. At first morose and withdrawn, Sean gives his dad a personal mystery to unravel, one whose denouement and conclusion are very satisfying. I hope Sean will stick around.
The mystery, which revolves around a body in the library, kept me turning the pages. But I was also fascinated by the (fictitious) collection, which includes a first edition of Pride and Prejudice. By the terms of Delacorte's will, the collection goes to Athena College, where Charlie will get to pore over every volume. If he wasn't firmly established as a good guy from the first book, he have a heckuva motive for murder!
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