Last summer, Miranda James introduced readers to the sleuth who is keeping killers at bay in her Cat in the Stacks mysteries. This librarian lead is back to unravel another reader's mystery in this month's Classified as Murder. But don't expect a feisty heroine, in a bit of gender-bending fun, James' book-loving leads are a man and his cat!
When you mention the words “cozy mystery” these days, what probably comes to mind most often is “female sleuth.” That’s because 99% of cozy mysteries these days do have female main characters, usually amateurs, who do the crime-solving. Two writers who have bucked that trend recently are Jeffrey Cohen, with his Elliot Freed series, and Miranda James (aka me), with the Cat in the Stacks series featuring not one, but two, males as lead characters: Charlie Harris and his Maine coon cat, Diesel.
Charlie Harris is a widower with two grown children, and in the first book, Murder Past Due, he has moved back to his hometown, Athena, Mississippi, after the death of his wife. About a year after the move he found a kitten in the parking lot at the public library. He named the kitten Diesel for his rumbling purr and discovered that Diesel was a Maine coon. The average male Maine coon often weighs about twenty-five pounds, but Diesel (based on an actual Maine coon I once met) weighs closer to forty pounds in Classified as Murder.
Charlie is also a librarian, and when that word is mentioned, most people probably again think “female,” since the profession seems to be dominated by women. But there are male librarians, and I thought it would be fun not only to have a librarian as the sleuth in a series, but also to make that librarian a man. Why should characters like Sarah Booth Delaney, Aurora Teagarden, or Annie Darling have all the fun?
The marketing departments at most major publishers seem to think that women readers – whom they identify as the chief consumers of cozies – want to read only cozies by women authors featuring women characters.
I’m happy to say that Charlie, Diesel, and I have proved them wrong. Cozy readers responded by putting the first book in the series, Murder Past Due, on the extended New York Times mass market paperback bestseller list for four weeks last year. I’m hoping that Classified as Murder, the second book, will receive as warm a welcome from fans of Diesel and Charlie. In this new book, Charlie gets the chance to do something that most librarians would love – inventory a large rare book collection with treasures like first editions of Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch.
Of course, there’s also a murder to solve, and Charlie and Diesel, with the help of Charlie’s son Sean and his poodle Dante, prove to be up to the task once again.
Right now I’m busy working on the third book, File M for Murder, and having great fun. This book will be out in February 2012.
Charlie and Diesel send their thanks to all the readers who embraced them so warmly. (And so do I, of course!)
- Miranda James