Book Review – Murder Past Due

  • Title: Murder Past Due
  • Author: Miranda James
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/25/2019

To be completely honest – I finished this book, maybe a week ago, and I put it down several times while reading it. And it’s not a bad story, not by any means, but it’s deceptively slow-paced and longer than the typical cozy mystery.

Charlie Harris is a retired librarian, now working as a part-time archivist for his alma mater, a small Southern college in Athena, Mississippi. He’s also a library volunteer and has a large Maine Coon cat named Diesel that he walks on a leash who accompanies him virtually everywhere, including to his job. Besides his librarian work, Charlie owns a boarding house where he takes in students from the local college. The house had belonged to his aunt, who looked after her own boarders, and Charlie decided to keep the tradition going. Charlie’s current boarder is Justin, the son of an old school friend of his.

After introducing us to Charlie, his cat, his boarder – Justin, Justin’s mother, Julia, and Charlie’s cook and housekeeper, as well as individuals at the college, we meet Godfrey Priest – world-renowned author of thrillers and mysteries. Godfrey was also a classmate of Charlie and Julia. In fact, Julia had dated him in high school – and he is Justin’s real father. Godfrey claims to be in town to donate his papers to the college, which is why he initially visits Charlie at his job, but it soon becomes clear – he’s there to meet his long-lost son. This reunion happens, but shortly thereafter, Godfrey is murdered. And it also soon becomes clear that Godfrey was a jerk and pretty much everyone had a reason to hate and resent him. It’s a case of “who killed the jerk”. Charlie and Diesel investigate, overturning lots of long-buried secrets, and lots of reasons why someone might want Godfrey dead. They even discover that the other guy that everyone can’t stand was Godfrey’s barely compensated ghostwriter. Charlie, and a local police officer named Kenesha, investigate and try to figure out who was angry enough at Godfrey to actually kill him – or accidentally since there is evidence he was killed in a struggle.

As is often the case with such stories, in the last chapter, all the suspects are gathered at Charlie’s house, as well as the police and a lawyer. The lawyer reads out Godfrey’s will, which leaves most of his considerable fortune to Justin and revelations are made and the murderer reveals themselves.

Murder Past Due takes considerable time to explore time and place, setting up the characters and the curiously timeless small town they live in. But the murder and case are somewhat disappointing. Godfrey is a jerk, lots of people wanted him dead, so the catch is – who wanted him dead enough to actually do it? Which is not the best premise for a murder mystery. The final scene is unconvincing, as is the final twist and actual revelation of the murderer. But I would read another mystery in this series because I liked Charlie and Diesel and I wouldn’t mind finding out what happened to some of the other characters.

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