Wednesday, January 31, 2018

File M for Murder (A Cat in the Stacks Mystery #3)

Author:  Miranda James
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover LP; Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book; MP3 CD
ISBN #:  9781471329920; 9780425246184; 9781522670742
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
Various Prices; $7.99; $7.99; $9.99 Amazon
January 31, 2012


Athena College's new writer in residence is a famous native son, playwright Connor Lawton, known for his sharp writing - and sharper tongue.  After an unpleasant encounter, librarian Charlie Harris heads home to a nice surprise:  His daughter, Laura, is visiting and will be subbing for another professor this fall semester.  It's great news until he hears who got her the job: her old flame, Connor Lawton...

Fearing competition for Connor's affections, one of his admirers tries to drive Laura out of town.  And then, before Connor finishes the play he is writing, he is murdered - and Laura is the prime suspect.  Knowing she's innocent, Charlie and his faithful sidekick, Diesel, follow Connor's cluttered trail of angry lovers, bitter enemies, and intriguing library research to find the true killer before his daughter is forever catalogued under "M" - for murderer.


Charlie Harris is enjoying his life in small town Athena, Mississippi - aside from the fact that egotistical playwright Connor Lawton is making him miserable.  It seems he's in town to hone a play at the college, and he's being a pain in the rear to everyone he meets.

But when Charlie's daughter Laura arrives, it's a welcome surprise.  Laura is conducting a semester at the college teaching acting, and it's an unfortunate occurrence when Charlie discovers that Connor and Laura once dated.  Everything he knows of the man screams Horrible Human Being.  But it's an even bigger surprise when he discovers that Laura has kept a secret about the true relationship she had with Connor.

Then Laura finds Connor's body and things change.  She's high on the suspect list, and Charlie now has a personal interest in finding the killer.  Once he saw Connor's body for himself, he knew it wasn't an accidental death, and he's also sure Laura is innocent.  But with so many people who disliked the man, there isn't going to be an easy path finding out the truth.  When things escalate and Charlie's very household comes into danger, the stakes are raised and Charlie will do anything to keep his family safe..

This is the third book in the series, and I would have liked to enjoy it more.  I did like the second one better than the first, but it seems Charlie is in a rut.  We've never really learned much about him except that he's barely over fifty and has a bit of a paunch.  There's no descriptions, not only of Charlie, but really of anyone else, sans hair color (black).  We're told his kids are attractive, but that's a relative term (especially since he's their father).  I would have liked to have seen more personality traits.  (We do get height - maybe the author doesn't like short people - everyone seems to be nearly six feet tall or taller).  There are also no descriptions of the town, so there's no connection of it to the story.  This place could be Anywhere, USA.

Then there's Deputy Berry...who's the most unlikable person in the book.  She has no humanness about her - she's cold, standoffish, always professional.  She's also never available when Charlie wants to reach her.  I realize she's a police officer, but surely at some point she can show that she's also a human?  Unbend a little?  Do her employees even like her?  Because I see nothing in her that shows she has any empathy for anyone else, nothing that shows she has a sense of humor, has a social life.  She's colder than my freezer.

Then there's Diesel.  I'm a lifelong cat owner, and I talk to them, play with them, etc.  But they don't act like humans.  Most times, cats do their own thing and are cats.  Diesel is practically a furry person.  It doesn't make sense (nor does the fact that Charlie talks to him like Charlie's a woman, not a man - I've never heard a guy call a cat 'sweet baby').  While Maine Coons do trill (I've owned one), they don't act like human beings.

As you can see, the book didn't impress me much - I've begun to wonder if I liked book #2 better because of the secondary characters in that book, since it obviously wasn't Charlie's family.  It makes you wonder what his late wife was like - was she as boring as everyone else?  They sit around brooding most of the time or sleeping.  A barrel of fun indeed.

As far as the plot goes, it was quite similar to the first - a writer comes to town, nasty and unlikable, and is murdered, and someone Charlie cares about is suspected of the crime.  This is only the third book.  Surely there could have been a different plot available?  And the ending - I don't know how I can put this without giving anything away, but I'll do my best: it would have been nice to see something of a certain person who was heavily involved.  There was no indication why, no indication of the person even existing.  No reason why anything happened or a certain person was targeted.  No.  Reason.  At.  All.  So it didn't make sense.

Hopefully the next book in the series will be better, and we'll actually get to see why on earth Helen is interested in Charlie - unless she spends her off time sleeping, too.


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