With Christmas just around the corner Charlie is looking forward to a quiet and uneventful holiday with his family and friends, but with his knack for ending up in the middle of murder investigations it is unlikely that things will stay quiet for long. When he hosts the planning meeting for the fundraiser for the Friends of Athena Public Library Charlie has the rather eye opening experience of watching the Ducote sisters wrangle control of the event from status conscious Vera Cassity. Not a fan of confrontation, the whole event leaves Charlie uncomfortable, but nothing prepares him for the reaction of his housekeeper Azaleas reaction to the news Vera Cassity had been in her house. There is history between Azalea and Vera and Charlie is dying of curiosity to know what caused the conflict.
When Vera Cassity is murdered at the Friends of Athena Public Library it is Azalea who is found over the body, but Charlie can't believe that Azalea would have done such a thing. Although the Sheriff is determined to keep Azalea at the top of the suspects list it is pretty clear to everyone else that Azalea is not the culprit, and Charlie soon finds himself drawn into solving, or at least helping to solve, another murder mystery. There are secrets in every town, and it seems as though there is a secret that Vera was trying to uncover before her death, a secret that could cause all kinds of trouble. As Charlie digs deeper into the mystery he discovers information that was never supposed to have seen the light of day, information that could be damaging for some of the suspects - if they knew the truth.
The Charlie and Diesel books, as they are known in my house, are some of my favourite discoveries this year - a series that I have found myself sharing with my mother who loves them just as much as I do. She often ends up reading them before I do and she waits with baited breath until I have finished each book so we can talk about the funny things that have happened, or the shocking discoveries Charlie has uncovered. Luckily I am the faster reader so it doesn't take me long to catch up with her, and luckily the local library has the complete set so I can order the next book in the series while I am reading the current treasure.
It can be easy to classify some books into a certain genre and while technically the Cat in the stack books are part of the murder mystery genre they are so much more than that - James blends together humour and complex human relationships to flesh out the town of Athena and its residents. Charlie is a quiet and unassuming man who is the last person you would expect to become embroiled in murder mysteries, as a semi-retired librarian and archivist he is used to keeping secrets and working by himself - which leads to some of the most hilarious moments in the novels. Diesel adds another dimension with his unusual size and the fact he accompanies Charlie everywhere, and he adds most of the other hilarious moments. There is something about this series that is just pure charm, a charm that is missing from other murder mysteries, and I have tried a lot of them in the past six months looking for another series as charming and "murder mystery-ish" as the Cat in the stacks.
This series is a rare find and hopefully there will be more books in the Cat in the stacks mysteries, even though James is now writing a spin-off series set in Athena. There is still a lot of potential for more Charlie and Diesel murder mystery solving.
If you like this book then try:
- Murder past due by Miranda James
- Dipped, stripped, and dead by Elise Hyatt
- French polished murder by Elise Hyatt
- Books can be deceiving by Jenn McKinlay
- One for the money by Janet Evanovich
- Death of a kitchen diva by Lee Hollis
Reviewed by Brilla