Murder Past Due by by Miranda James (pen name for Dean James)
Rating: 4 stars
While The Cat Who will always be my favorite cat mastery series, I also love The Cat in the Stacks series. One of the main draws of this series for me was the cat being a Maine Coon. For too long Maine Coons have been ignored in literature in favor of Siamese, Persian, or shorthair black cats (common companions in any novel about magic).
I love Maine Coon cats, and I had two growing up (they were both strays we found, but our vet was 99% certain they were Maine Coons; he even asked what breeder we got Dusty from). They are one of the largest cat breeds and have a thick long hair coat, perfect for harsh winters, that sheds like crazy and in clumps. They also have long and extremely furry tails that they can use to sweep all of the makeup off your dresser (always when you are in a rush to get ready in the morning). Duke and Dusty were both in the 20-25lb. range, and Dusty loved playing in the snow. He could be out in the snow for hours, and you had to catch him to make him come inside.
The main cat in this mysteries series is Diesel (named because of his engine-like roar of a purr), a Maine Coon owned by older librarian Charlie Harris in Athena, Mississippi. Charlie found Diesel (or it could have been the other way around) at the right time in his life. Charlie’s wife had passed away years ago, his children were off starting their own lives, and his beloved aunt had passed away and left him her house in Athena. He had grown accustomed to his solitary life when he found the adorable kitten Diesel, and they have been together ever since.
Charlie even walks Diesel on a leash and brings him to work. While that may be unusual for a cat, we did walk Dusty on a leash. My parents weren’t able to bring him to work regularly, although I did bring him to school for show and tell once. Dusty loved all the attention and just sat there with a grin on his face while 20 kids fought over who got to pet him.
The main mystery of this book revolves around the murder of Charlie’s childhood classmate and bestselling author Godfrey Priest. Charlie is involved in several ways, from finding Godfrey’s body to renting a room to the son Godfrey didn’t know about until days before. Plus Godfrey donated his papers to the college where Charlie works as a librarian, and Charlie is in charge of cataloging them. He also employs mother of the the police officer assigned to the case, and promises her he will help her daughter any way he can. So unlike other cozy mysteries, there are actually good reasons for Charlie sticking his nose in this murder investigation.
While I don’t want to spoil the mystery, James is great at weaving in an idealized picture of small town life while Charlie investigates several residents and follows up on clues. This book may be a bit too squeaky clean, but it’s one I would feel comfortable recommending to my grandmother (who doesn’t watch Friends because of the promiscuity – single women having a life, oh my heavens!).
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good, clean cozy mystery or books featuring adorable Maine Coons.