Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Cat in the Stacks #11
Published by Berkley Books on July 16, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
When Charlie Harris decides to go back to school, he and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, find themselves entangled in a deadly lovers quarrel on campus in the latest installment of the New York Times bestselling series.
In addition to his library duties and his role as doting grandad, Charlie has enrolled in an early medieval history course offered by young, charismatic professor Carey Warriner. Charlie feels a bit out of place- his fellow classmates are half his age- except for Dixie Bell Compton, another 'mature' student. When Charlie hears an angry exchange between her and their professor, his interest in piqued. He's even more intrigued when she shows up at his office asking for a study partner. Charlie turns her down and is saddened to learn just a few days later that Dixie has been killed.
Charlie wonders if Professor Warriner had anything to do with Dixie's death. Warriner is married to a fellow professor who happens to be a successful author. There are rumors on campus that their marriage was on the rocks. Was Dixie's death the result of a lovers' triangle gone bad? Charlie soon discovers that the professor's wife may have some secrets of her own and his suspect list is only getting longer.
As he and Diesel step further into the tangled web of relationships, someone else is viciously killed. Whose jealousy finally erupted into murderous rage? Was it a crime of passion or is there another more sinister motive? Charlie races to unravel this mystery: and to draw out the culprit, he may just have to put his own life on the line...
I was looking for a comfort read this week. I’ve been reading too much fanfiction and haven’t been able to just dive into anything that I could write a review for. And the cats have been particularly adorable this week, which led me to Charlie Harris, his large and in charge Maine Coon cat Diesel, and the Cat in the Stacks series. As if that wasn’t enough of a reminder, I just picked up an eARC of the next book in the series!
Charlie Harris is the rare books librarian and archivist at Athena College in the cozy little small town of Athena Mississippi. Charlie, an alum of Athena College, spent most of his professional life in Houston, but returned home at the beginning of the series in Murder Past Due, when he inherited a lovely old house from his Aunt Dottie. (A far northerly version of this opening occurs in Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who series.)
By this 11th book in the series we’ve gotten to know Charlie, his friends and family, and the denizens of Athena fairly well. Especially Charlie’s large and colorful cat, Diesel. Maine Coons are generally large and fairly placid cats, but Diesel is exceptional even for his breed, as Charlie comments that he’s 37 pounds or so with the bone structure to carry that weight. Diesel can afford to be fairly laid back, as he is bigger than even some medium sized dogs.
Diesel is often a common sight around town, as he accompanies his person nearly everywhere that Charlie goes. But Diesel, for all his size and empathy, is never portrayed as anything more than just a very large cat who is smart on the feline intelligence scale. He doesn’t solve murders.
Yes, I want a Diesel of my own. Maine Coons are handsome and very well behaved.
Which is more than one can say for Ramses, the kitten that Charlie and Diesel adopted at the end of Six Cats a Slayin’.
If you’re getting the impression that I read this series more for the cat than his human, you might be right.
Nevertheless, Charlie Harris is an interesting sleuth, and the author, a real-life librarian, has done an excellent job of making Charlie read like “one of us” while still allowing the other characters to lampshade Charlie’s unfortunate resemblance to TV small town sleuth Jessica Fletcher.
Too many dead bodies seem to turn up in both of their wakes – to the point where one might wonder – as some of the other characters frequently do, whether Charlie’s luck is good or bad and whether or not it is safe to be in his orbit.
This particular case combines the character’s loves of both English literature and history with that oft-quoted quip by Henry Kissinger, the one that goes, “The reason that university politics is so vicious is because takes are so small.”
Only Charlie Harris could manage to audit a college class that results in not just one but two dead bodies. And ends with the killer’s hands wrapped around Charlie’s own throat.
Escape Rating B: I read this series for fun – and I certainly had fun reading The Pawful Truth. In spite of the terribly punny title.
This entry in the series provided a light read that instantly swept me back into the little town of Athena and Charlie Harris’ terrific family, whether those family members are by birth or by “adoption”.
(I’ll admit that I would also love to audit that class that Charlie does – Plantagenet and Tudor England was also my favorite period of history.)
But the mystery in this one was also interesting in the way that it spins out from what seems like a relatively simple case of love triangle gone wrong to something that in the end surprisingly resembles Shakespearean tragedy. A particular Shakespearean tragedy in fact – that of Othello.
It was fun to watch the case morph from the simple to the increasingly complex, even as Charlie did his usual job of digging into something that he should never have been part of in the first place – only to find himself in the middle yet again.
That this case looked to be based in the insular world of academia added yet more red herrings while also providing a semi-credible excuse for Charlie to involve himself way more than he ought to have. Not that Charlie ever needs much of an excuse.
And I was too busy catching up with all my friends in this series to spot who the murderer was, which just added to the fun.
I’ll definitely be back for the next book in the series, Careless Whiskers, whenever I need a little reading vacation in Athena.
Reviewer’s Note: As much as I always love Diesel, his behavior with the tiny and precocious kitten Ramses brought a smile to my face and reminded me very fondly of feline behavior in my own household. When Hecate was a tiny kitten Freddie used to “let” her chase him and “pretend” that she had thrown him to the ground. At the time, Hecate weighed 1.5 pounds (maybe) and Freddie about 12 pounds. Cats who want to play with each other in spite of a significant size difference will play just the way that Diesel and Ramses do and it’s utterly adorable.