Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Review: Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks Mysteries #6)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Another strong mystery with plenty of twists
Cons: Would have enjoyed more of the supporting characters
The Bottom Line:
These diaries cause
Plenty of trouble in this
Fast paced and fun read

Politics, a Diary, and Murder

I read to escape from real life.  It’s nice to escape into a world where things make sense at the end of the story and the hero makes a big difference in the outcome.  So you can imagine my feelings when I discovered that last year’s entry in the Cat in the Stacks series, Arsenic and Old Books, involved, at least in part, a local political race.  Yet that didn’t stop me from digging in and enjoying the book.

This book was the hardcover debut for the series, but is the sixth overall.  The series focuses on Charlie Harris, who works part time in the library archives at Athena College in Athena, Mississippi.  Charlie owns a Maine Coon cat named Diesel who goes everywhere with him.  Whether you have been following the series for years or are thinking about jumping in here, you’ll enjoy the book completely.

As this book opens, Charlie has just been given a donation for the archives – four diaries written by a local woman who lived during the Civil War.  Naturally, he is thrilled to have these volumes, but before he can even process them, he has two different women demanding to look at them immediately.  One of the women, Marie Steverton, thinks these diaries might be the key to her finally getting tenure at the college, while the other, Kelly Grimes, thinks they might have some baring on the current local election for state senate.

Things get even more bizarre when the diaries go missing from Charlie’s office.  Then someone turns up dead, and it looks like murder.  What exactly is in those diaries?  And how could it lead to this modern mayhem?

I love it when a book can include things from the long past in a present mystery, and this book does a great job of it.  Between the mysteries of the past and how it influenced the present, the book grips us quickly and never lets go.  I was pulled in and turning pages to figure out how the latest twist was going to play into the solution.  By the end, everything makes perfect sense.

I mentioned earlier that this would be a good book for those new to the series to jump in, and that’s because we get little of the supporting characters.  Honestly, they are mostly reduced to cameos here.  We do get some updates on them, and their scenes are fun, but I found I missed them.  On the other hand, the plot was so strong, we didn’t need any sub-plots.  Instead, anything with them would have just slowed down the mystery, and I didn’t want that at all.

Not that we are lacking for good characters.  The characters we meet here are all strong and keep us engaged with the mystery.

When this book was released in paperback, it included a bonus short story, “When Charlie Met Diesel.”  Set before the series started, it’s the story of how exactly Charlie found Diesel.  It’s nothing we haven’t heard in earlier books in the series, but it’s still a fun read if you can get your hands on a copy.

Yes, I missed seeing more of the supporting characters, but that’s a minor point.  Arsenic and Old Books is strong with plenty of twists and turns to keep you entertained until the very last page.

Once you get hooked, you'll definitely want to check out the rest of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries in order.


  1. Excellent mysteries and characters you care about as well as the "current" historical info applied to today's world. Can't wait for the next one, Cindy Herrmann

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, you do. Of course, I'd only read the first in the series before this year myself, so I'm one to talk.

  3. I've read them all and love the characters and always enjoy the mystery. I'm subconsciously wanting to adopt a Maine Coon cat!

    1. I'm allergic to cats, so I don't want to adopt one, but I'm certainly interested in seeing one after reading all these books.