Miss Cuddlywumps reviews Murder Past Due, Miranda James’s first Cat in the Stacks mystery
There is a new love in my life, and his name is Diesel. He is a Maine Coon cat, a gray tabby with a loud rumbling purr (that’s how he got his name), and instead of meowing, he chirps. How endearing. This cat has it all: good looks, terrific purr, and sensitivity. He always knows just when to place a comforting paw on someone’s knee or arm. Diesel also walks on a leash, but I’m willing to overlook that because this cat has Presence.
Diesel lives with one Charlie Harris in Athena, Mississippi. Charlie, a widower, works part time as a cataloger and archivist at the library of his alma mater, Athena College. Diesel goes to work with him; in fact, Diesel goes pretty much everywhere with him (lucky cat). Charlie also has a boarder, Justin, to whom Diesel is touchingly devoted. Justin’s mother is Julia, who is an old classmate of Charlie’s. Justin’s father is … well, that part is complicated, as are most of the relationships in Murder Past Due. They are complicated and they stretch back years and they give the book a richness that is both comforting and intriguing.
These relationships get stirred up with the arrival of best-selling thriller writer Godfrey Priest, an arrogant, self-important sort who has magnanimously (in his mind) decided to donate his papers to Athena College. Godfrey visits Charlie at the library to announce this great gift—and to reveal that, unknown to anyone else but Julia, he is Justin’s biological father. Naturally Julia is married to someone else. More complicated relationships. Later that day, Godfrey meets his son for the first time and the two begin getting to know one another.
Hours after that meeting, Godfrey Priest is dead.
Charlie becomes embroiled in the investigation both because he discovered the body and because his housekeeper happens to be the mother of Deputy Kanesha Berry, who takes charge of the case. He discovers secrets buried in the Godfrey Priest collection, and even more of those complicated relationships. The keys to the truth lie within those discoveries.
Murder Past Due made us want to hurry up and read the other books in the series. Miranda James’s writing is a joy to read. Every character’s manners and voice are evocative of the South—though not always of Southern charm, because not every character is charming. The mystery itself is intriguing from the moment the body is discovered until the revelation of the murderer. And on every page there is Diesel with his rumbling purr and comforting paw.
This book gets an enthusiastic …