Lucinda Beckwith Long, the mayor of Athena, has donated a set of Civil War-era diaries to the archives of Athena College. The books were recently discovered among the personal effects of an ancestor of Mrs. Long’s husband. The mayor would like Charlie to preserve and to substantiate them as a part of the Long family legacy—something that could benefit her son, Beck, as he prepares to campaign for the state senate.
Beck’s biggest rival is Jasper Singletary. His Southern roots are as deep as Beck’s, and their families have been bitter enemies since the Civil War. Jasper claims the Long clan has a history of underhanded behavior at the expense of the Singletarys. He’d like to get a look at the diaries in an attempt to expose the Long family’s past sins. Meanwhile, a history professor at the college is also determined to get her hands on the books in a last-ditch bid for tenure. But their interest suddenly turns deadly…
Now Charlie is left with a catalog of questions. The diaries seem worth killing for, and one thing is certain: Charlie will need to be careful, because the more he reads, the closer he could be coming to his final chapter.
By Miranda James
Each of the “Cat in the Stacks” novels has centered on the family in some way. The core of the books is Charlie and his family, beginning with Diesel the Maine Coon cat in the first book, and then including his son Sean, daughter Laura, and others in subsequent books. The mystery plots in each of the books also center on family in some way.
In the latest book in the series, Arsenic and Old Books, the mayor of Athena, Lucinda Beckwith Long, presents Charlie with a set of Civil War-era diaries, a donation from the Long family to the college archive. The author of the diaries was Rachel Afton Long, and the mayor tells Charlie that the contents could help decide an upcoming election. Her son “Beck” Long is contending for a state senate seat against Jasper Singletary. The Longs and the Singletarys have a long history of distrust and discord between them. The Longs have been wealthy, one of the leading families of Athena for generations, while the Singletary clan consisted of poor subsistence farmers who claim their misfortunes were caused by the Longs.
Charlie naturally wonders how diaries written a century-and-a-half ago can impact the present. He is also astonished when two different women demand immediate access to them. A history professor desperate for tenure and a reporter whose reasons are murky both try their best to get their hands on the diaries. The situation is complicated by murder, and Charlie once again finds himself in the middle of the investigation.As a student of history myself, and one whose family roots go back to 1831 in Mississippi, I wanted to write a story in which the distant past did affect the present. The Civil War era seemed a good place to start, and I thought incorporating the diaries of an antebellum woman a good way to open that window into the past. The result of all this is Arsenic and Old Books.
*The Essence of Family
I'm mentioning this not only because it's true, but because the author also touches on it in her guest post. This series does a tremendous job of incorporating Charlie and his family. It's always so nice to read a series that has a group of characters that they expand on with each new book written. If kind of feels like you're watching them grow up and mature. Such a cool experience :)
What a really cool cat :)
*The History Lesson
One of the things that cozy authors do very well, is bring a hobby or certain subject matter in to help "theme" the books they're writing. In this particular book, the author brings in history. Civil War-era history at that. It's always so fascinating to see authors do their homework when it comes to the information they put in to their writing. And it always pays off in the depth of their storytelling ability :) Bravo!
Another great addition to this series. The mystery was superb, the character awesome, and the writing style flawless. I truly enjoy spending time in this world created my Miranda James and can't wait to visit again in the future.
Rating: 4 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own.