Read Recently — June 2014 — Flat Kitchen Libraries

The Silence Of The Library: a cat in the stacks mystery by Miranda James

So, the “Cat In The Stacks” mysteries are a series of cosies set in the American South, specifically the fictional town of Athena, Mississippi. The hero is one Charlie Harris, librarian, and his sidekick is his Maine Coon cat, Diesel. Maine Coons are huge cats, and Diesel is big even for one of them, which is how he got his name: his purr is said to sound like a diesel engine starting up. Aside from being larger than most dogs, though, Diesel isn’t anything special as cats go. Unlike the cats in some mysteries, he doesn’t talk or anything, though he’s still quite a character.

Over the course of the series (4 other books), Charlie and Diesel have accumulated quite a collection of loveable sidekicks, including Charlie’s son and daughter, his gay boarder, Stewart, and his lover, and Sheriff’s Deputy Kanesha Berry who doesn’t like finding Charlie always in the middle of her investigations (and she has a bit of a problem with her Mother being Charlie’s housekeeper (he inherited her with the house from his late Aunt)). Charlie’s not a great sleuth, but since most of the mysteries involve books he solves it eventually, usually arriving at the same result as Kanesha by different means, as well as supplying her with valuable clues.

This one deals with the elderly author of a series of fan-favourite “girls’ mysteries” (think Nancy Drew) turning up alive and not far from Athena, just as the local library is planning a convention about the books. Naturally they invite her, naturally rabid collectors come crawling out of the woodwork, and naturally someone ends up murdered. It’s an interesting concept and James handles it well. My main complaint is the title: it doesn’t relate to anything in the plot. It might be an attempt at a reference to The Silence of the Lambs but I can’t see any reason to do so since it still doesn’t relate to the plot; there isn’t even a tip of the hat in the direction of Lambs. That’s just going to keep bugging me.

Also, it looks like the series is effectively over, since all of the cast except Diesel are put on a boat and shipped off to France in the next book, leaving Diesel in the care of two minor characters from a couple of books back. IE–no one I want to read about.

Anyway, this one is recommended, but for full effect you should start with Murder Past Due.

Soul Kitchen by Poppy Z Brite

Another re-read. A talented chef who was accused and convicted of murder is finally released from prison and wanders into Liquor, where Rickey is pleased to give him a job. Later, feeling the man’s talent is wasted working for someone else, Rickey gets him hired as the head chef on a new project that Rickey has been asked to consult on. Rickey’s absence puts the pressure on G-Man, who has to run the restaurant himself, a task he’s not really suited to. He finds himself missing Rickey, and attracted to new young sous-chef. The pressure on G-Man is not helped by the fact that Rickey has quarreled with Tanker, their talented dessert chef, who as a consequence has left the team and gone to work at yet another place. A doctor who’s associated with Rickey’s new project has got him hooked on pain-killers, since he threw out his back at the start of the story. And someone else connected with the project may, in fact, be the real killer from the start of the book.

As usual, lots of fun and highly recommended, but start with Liquor.

Flatterland: like Flatland, only more so by Ian Stewart

Ever since 1884, when Edwin Abbott published Flatland people have been expanding on the concepts therein. This is no exception. It’s a direct sequel, featuring the great-great-granddaughter of Abbott’s square hero, as she wends her way through time and space with the help of a Space Hopper (don’t ask). It’s interesting and amusing; not quite my preferred way to learn about physics, but not bad for that purpose. Mildly recommended.

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