Miranda James is one of the authors on the Cozy Mystery site who writes under a number of pseudonyms including Honor Hartman, Jimmie Ruth Evans, & Dean James. “Miranda” is also one of my favorite non-female Cozy Mystery writers >>> yes, “she” is actually Dean James, a fact that is not a spoiler since he announces it on his own site for the Cat in the Stacks series.
The sleuth in this series has some things in common with the author including living in Houston, Texas (at one time or another) In the sleuth’s case, Charlie has returned to his hometown in Mississippi. Charlie and Miranda are also cat lovers and librarians.
Murder Past Due is the story of Charlie and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, who need to solve a murder after the return of his long-ago high school classmate, Geoffrey Priest, the now-famous writer, for a function at the small college they also both attended.
Charlie lives in Athena, Mississippi, in the large house left to him by his Aunt Dottie a year or so ago. Charlie had been widowed some time before he left Houston and has two adult children who do not live in the Mississippi town. More importantly for the series, Charlie has the Maine Coon cat, Diesel, as his nearly constant companion. Diesel is a quite unusual cat, not only for his 25-pound size, but for his allowing Charlie to walk him on a leash. Diesel is also very affectionate and quite empathetic. Diesel is really more like a dog than most cats are!
Charlie takes it upon himself to help solve the murder not only because he found the body >>> that alone would have been enough in most Cozy Mysteries >>> but also because his housekeeper’s daughter is the Deputy Sheriff in charge of the investigation. And, his student boarder, Justin, was involved with the victim just enough to make him a prime suspect.
This is a Cozy Mystery series where the cat theme really is prominent. Diesel doesn’t seem to have any magical powers, but he sure is well-behaved and is so, so empathetic. Anytime anyone needs some comforting, Diesel is right there for them. Diesel also goes with Charlie everywhere including to Charlie’s part-time job as the college library’s archivist. Diesel even attends the victim’s memorial service. Miranda James somehow makes all this seem plausible. It is a delight to read about Diesel and Charlie. If you like stories with a heavy dose of a lovable cat, you will love this series!
The book is a fun, light read with memorable characters. Sometimes, just when I start to think that all of my favorite Cozy Mystery authors are women, I am reminded of Miranda James (Dean James) along with several other men authors I really enjoy reading, and I realize that whether the author is a man or a woman, a great story with interesting characters is really what it is all about. There are seven books already published in this series, and the eighth is scheduled for 2017. I look forward to reading about Charlie and Diesel for many years!