Book Review – Classified as Murder

TITLE: Classified as Murder
AUTHOR: Miranda James
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2011

 

Classified as Murder is the 2nd volume in a cost mystery series starring Charlie Harris, a retired librarian, and his Maine Coon, Diesel, (Okay, mostly his Maine coon, Diesel), and set in Athena, MS.

So, Charlie is a part time librarian who spends his time between the college library where he gets paid and the city library where he doesn’t.  It’s on a volunteer shift in the city library that Mr. Delacourte, wealthy and eccentric, asks him for a private meeting.  Charlie agrees, and the three (because cat) meet the next day, where Mr. Delacourte lays everything out there.  He thinks he’s being stolen from, and the prime suspects are his very own family who all unfortunately live under his roof with him.

Charlie agrees to a ridiculous $300 an hour amount to verify the collection is all in place, and agrees to start as soon as possible, staring with afternoon tea with the family over the weekend.  True to Delacourte’s warning, the family are all batshit crazy in their own ways – some more obviously than others, one family member shows up for tea dressed like Scarlett O’Hara, for instance – and he’s right to be suspicious.  Charlie leaves for lunch his first day there and comes back to the body of Mr. Delacourte himself.  But who did it?  Crazy relations seem likely; they certainly had the proximity to the crime scene.

While all that’s happening, Charlie’s son shows up unannounced from Houston, and asks to stay for a while.  Another mystery, because Charlie just has to know why his son – who will barely speak to him – has now come to stay until he says otherwise.

… Okay then.

So, I got this book (and the first in the series) when my bf showed up from work with them one day and “you like mysteries and cats, so…”  I read the first one a while ago and it took me a while to get to the point that I cared enough to read this one.

The author has some issues.  We get too much introversion from the main character.  For instance, somebody says something and we immediately get the MC’s thoughts on the matter.  Son says something, MC thinks “well, I thought…”  Sometimes it’s nice for clarity sake, but when you get that sort of thing a dozen times in a couple pages of conversation, it’s a little old by the end.  I don’t actually need to know every thought a character has, especially when it’s not important to the other characters and things going on, and really, in a lot of these cases, it wasn’t.  Because gosh golly, it just changes every effing time anyway.

Also, the cat.  I love the cat.  I actually had a brown tabby named Diesel left at my house once, and this book reminds me of him.  But the cat has a remarkable lot going on for a character that doesn’t usually contribute to anything important.  I sat down for lunch while Diesel went into the other room. 

Because the comings and goings of a cat to the litter box are just soooooooo fascinating to read, right?  Hint:  Notsomuch.

I also take issue with a few of the characters.  The MC’s son is 27, the MC is not much older than 50 (about my boyfriend’s age) and just lucked into early retirement when his aunt died and left him the house that he rents rooms to boarders from.  But Charlie acts like he’s 55 going on 92.  he can use a computer but he just seems so out of touch with a lot of stuff.  His housekeeper, who is roughly the same age, speaks with a dialect that makes her sound like the colored help from a 1900s period book – which would just be odd if she weren’t colored, but is kinda obnoxious since she is – and really, when nobody else has an accent – In MISSISSIPPI! – why does she have one that makes her sound like she’s old and uneducated?  I don’t recall seeing her actual age, but based on a few other things, I’d put her not much older than Charlie – maybe in her early 60s – and it’s weird that she sounds like some uneducated 100 year old woman when she should have had the benefit of public schools.

So the bottom line.  Cozy mysteries are supposed to be about liking the characters and all that good stuff.  I do like most of them, although I think the author needs to relax what s/he is doing and get on with letting them be characters.  The writing is good enough that I forgive a lot of the things that should annoy me because I care enough about the characters and the mystery is developed well enough.  There are some good moments and properly funny bits, so that’s good.

In the end, I think this one was a lot better than the first one.  I’ll give it a pretty solid 3/5 pages.  It wouldn’t take that much to make this series better, and I’m hoping that future books improve.

 

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