DONE IN THE LIBRARY BUT NOT BY COLONEL MUSTARD OR BY THE KNIFE
James Delacourt is a very wealthy octogenarian. He is a fastidious man with impeccable manners, a thirst for knowledge, a talent for business and a spine of steel. A closeted homosexual, Delacourt has sublimated his physical passions into an intellectual passion for collecting rare books. Computer illiterate by choice, he has relied on our protagonist, Charlie Harris, to help him with his research ever since Charlie returned to Athena nearly four years ago.
As an archival and research librarian in the rare books division of the local college, Charlie is well qualified to assist Delacourt. However, he is completely taken aback when Delacourt wishes to hire him to inventory his multi-thousands of books. It seems that Delacourt has reason to believe that some of the books have disappeared. However, lacking a computerized tagging system, he has been unable to determine what is missing.
Charlie is even more taken aback when he meets the people whom Delacourt suspects as being involved in the theft – his own family. Delacourt’s sister, her son and his wife, a great nephew and a great-niece all live with Delacourt and his butler in Delacourt’s opulent mansion. To describe them as an eccentric bunch is being both polite and understated. One is a hypochondriac while another is truly certifiable. A third is an ice princess while another is a master of sarcastic deflection. The fifth is an egotistical boor with an over-developed sense of entitlement.
And apparently, at least one of them has a penchant for homicide. When Charlie returns from lunch on his first day working with Delacourt and the collection, he finds Delacourt at his desk, murdered.
If you are looking for a solid, sophisticated mystery without shock and awe, gratuitous violence and instantaneous sexual gratification, this second entry in Miranda James’ Cat in the Stacks series will definitely fill the bill. However, this entry is not a standalone. While the murder investigation chronicled in the first book is mentioned several times, it is not summarized. Also, Charlie’s backstory is not re-capped in any significant manner. Thus, the relationship between Charlie and Diesel as well as his relationships with other characters from the first book are assumed in evidence as the reader begins this book. Knowing that backstory and how those relationships came into being is important to the flow of this story, and ultimately to the resolution of the current murder mystery.
The book is a page-turner, a cannot-put-it-down-even-if-I-lose-sleep type of mystery. Covering one week in chronological time, three plot lines work simultaneously. Of course, one is the investigation into the murder and the associated missing rare books. But just as important is the subplot that has Charlie’s lawyer son, Sean, suddenly showing up in Athena after quitting his law firm in Houston. Along with these issues is the developing quasi-professional relationship between Charlie and local lead homicide detective.
The one subplot still missing is that of any romantic entanglement between Charlie and any other character. A widower for nearly four years now, he has been emotionally unavailable in that area. However, we begin to see a break in that emotional blockade as Charlie comes to grips with his own responsibility in the estrangement between himself and his son. So, we have two subtle hooks to guide us toward future entries in the series: the son is planning to stay in Athena, shifting his focus from corporate law to investigative/family law and Charlie is seriously entertaining the idea of dating.
Cover Art from Goodreads