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Out of Circulation (Cat in the Stacks…
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Out of Circulation (Cat in the Stacks Mystery) (edition 2013)

by Miranda James

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2091784,162 (3.91)7
Member:pausanias
Title:Out of Circulation (Cat in the Stacks Mystery)
Authors:Miranda James
Info:Berkley (2013), Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Cozy Mysteries, Your library
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Tags:Mom

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Out of Circulation by Miranda James

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Out of Circulation is the fourth Cat in the Stacks mystery. The cat is a rescued Maine Coon named Diesel for the loudness of his purr. His rescuer is a librarian named Charlie Harris. They live in fictional Athena, Mississippi.

Our book opens in Charlie's house, where he's expecting something he finds unsettling: a confrontation. He joins under the orders of Miss An'gel Ducote, who has been ordering Athena's citizens around for most of her 80+ years. Vera Cassity is not going to let Miss An'gel tell her what to do. The object of contention is the same as it is every year the Friends of the Athena Public Library board members are discussing their fundraising winter gala. The Ducote sisters want it held at their 1823 River Hill mansion, which has been in their family since it was built. Mrs. Cassity wants it held at Ranelagh, the antebellum mansion she and her husband Morton ('Morty') bought 15 years ago. Vera is the grande dame wannabe. I'm not getting the impression that anyone else would like for her to obtain her goal. (Charlie, now 52, inherited his house from his Aunt Dottie. He spent much of his adult life in Texas, where his wife Jackie died. So he's part of the town, yet being away so long means he's not always up on the undercurrents.)

We soon learn that Sissy Beauchamp, one of the board members, and Vera Cassity loathe each other. We're also treated to a morsel of juicy gossip about them, not long after a morsel about Vera's brother, Amory Hobson. Meow! Charlie and his boarder, Stewart Delacorte, are both new members of the board. Stewart is definitely on the Ducote sisters' side. No one likes Vera, so no points for guessing which side Charlie chooses. If you enjoy barbed conversation delivered in mock-sweet tones, you'll have fun with this scene.

After that meeting, Charlie decides he and Diesel need a break at the delicious-sounding patisserie owned by their dear friend, Helen Louise Brady. There we're introduced to Sissy's brother, who has the high-falutin name Henry Ainsworth Beauchamp IV. (At least he has the sense to go by 'Hank'.) There's obviously tension between them, but they're not sharing in public.

See book one, Murder Past Due, for more about Charlie's younger boarder, Justin Wardlaw. See book two, Classified As Murder, for the first meeting of Charlie's son, Sean, and the lovely Alexandra Pendergrast, daughter of the Ducotes' lawyer, Q. C. Pendergrast. (Book two is also where we were introduced to Stewart Delacorte and his champagne-colored poodle, Dante. Luckily, Dante and Diesel are friends.) We met Laura Harris, Charlie's daughter, in book three, Classified As Murder. She's dating one of the local professors, Frank Salisbury. Charlie is hoping Frank can persuade Laura to stay in Athena.

Vera Cassity may not be popular in Athena, but someone who truly despises her is Azalea Berry, Charlie's housekeeper. She's African-American and works for Charlie by her choice, not her daughter's. Azalea won't tell Charlie what she has against Vera, but she tells him that if he lets that woman back in his house, his late aunt will haunt him and Azalea herself won't come back.

Stewart and Justin give us more information about Vera Cassity in chapter four. She's Stewart's godmother because she and his mother were high school best friends. Vera doesn't approve of Stewart being gay, so they see very little of each other.

Vera gets a chance to show off how nasty she can be when she tries to bully Charlie into letting her see papers that cannot be viewed by the public without written permission from the donating family or their legal representative.

The festive gala lets us find out who is the favorite literary character for our hero and his supporting cast. It's also the scene of the crime. Whoever did it made sure that Azalea was trapped with the corpse. Sheriff Tidwell decides that Azalea is the one who did it. Her daughter, Chief Deputy Kanesha Berry, tells Charlie he's going to have to help clear her.

NOTES:

Chapter 5:

a. See Classified As Murder for how Athena College acquired the Delacorte Collection.

b. Charlie believes that Beauregard Ducote was one of the founders of Athena.

Chapter 6 contains Charlie's visit to River Hill, with some description of the place. It also mentions a photo Aunt Dottie took of Charlie after he'd been making mud pies when he was a child.

Chapter 8: The Biblical saying that Charlie quotes correctly is Proverbs chapter 16, verse 18. (I am also annoyed when it's misquoted.)

Chapter 9: Look here for which literary characters Charlie and Helen Louise chose for the the big gala (wearing costumes in new for the gala). The Ducote sisters have chosen to portray two of Elizabeth Peters' heroines.

Chapter 10 gives us more characters' chosen costumes.

Chapter 11 gives us even more costumes.

Chapter 12 shows us how the Ducote sisters have spiked Vera's guns.

Chapter 14: Charlie has known Azalea for a long time. He'd met her during several visits to his Aunt Dottie, for whom Azalea started to work 2 years ago. Azalea has been working for Charlie for four years. As he puts it, 'I inherited Azalea along with the house. I had little say in the matter.'

Chapter 15:

a. Diesel takes advantage of Azalea's upset state to get her to decide he's not so bad after all.

b. Look here for the childish nicknames Sean and Laura have for each other.

c. Laura found the body in book three, Fire M for Murder.

Chapter 17: We find out what Azalea had against Vera. Perjury was involved. We also find out what Azalea thinks of Charlie.

/hapter 19: Vera's late mother was Essie Mae Hobson. Her father was Jedediah, as we learn in chapter 20.

Chapter 23 has some descriptions of Helen Louise Brady's home.

Chapter 25 has a description of Beauchamp House.

Chapter 26 tells us a bit about the Ducote papers. Also, Diesel weighs 36 pounds (16.3 kilograms).

Chapter 27:

a. The Ducote sisters' parents were Richard and Katherine Cecelia (she went by her middle name, but Dick called her 'Kitce') Ducote.

b. Cecelia Ducote's mother's Great-Aunt Matilda's granddaughter was Esther McMullen.

c. Dickse Ducote's name is actually Richelle.

Chapter 29: Azalea's sister, Lily, used to work for the Beauchamps. In chapter 30, we meet Lily.

Chapter 30: Vera's middle name was Micaela. Her brother Amory's name is McMullen.

Chapter 32: Here Aunt Lily calls Kanesha 'Nesha.

This is an enjoyable series and this entry is no exception. There were some unexpected revelations in it. I feel more sorry for the killer than the victim. The extra Christmas present Laura gives Charlie at the end was particularly nice. (I like the image of Diesel and Dante playing with boxes, wrapping paper, and ribbons.)

Cat lovers: Of course the magnificent Diesel has plenty of page time.

Dog lovers will have to be content with two small scenes for Dante the poodle. ( )
  JalenV | Apr 23, 2019 |
When you are the town busybody and have antagonized so many people in your community, it’s a big job to narrow down the suspect list when you turn up murdered. This was Vera’s plight and Charlie’s quest. He is hard-pressed to find the real killer when his beloved housekeeper becomes a person of interest to the sheriff, her daughter having been taken off the case. There are some twists and turns in this cozy as well as some developments in the characters’ lives. This entertaining cozy has books, a cat, a dog, the murder of a scoundrel, and it’s Christmas - what more is there! ( )
  Maydacat | Aug 16, 2018 |
Charlie Harris has joined the Friends of the Library board just is time to help plan this year’s library Christmas fundraiser gala. That means staying out of way of the feud between Vera Cassity and the Ducote sisters Miss An’gel and Miss Dickcee. It seems no one in town really cares for Vera, even Charlie’s housekeeper, Azalea, seems to have it out for her. At the gala Charlie begins to understand why, no one ever taught Vera that “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” She had a few nasty arguments with almost everyone at the gala that night, and one of these arguments happens to be her last. While Vera wasn't the life of the party but her death turns the party upside down. She's found dead by Azalea who was standing over her body. Charlie knows there's more to the story so with a bit of help his loyal feline sidekick Diesel, he sets out to catch the killer before an innocent person goes to jail for the crime.

I have enjoyed watching the relationship between Charlie and and his children Sean and Laura, grow and become stronger as they each live their own lives while living together. This is a well plotted with a few red herrings dropped in here and there. There's also a mini-mystery within the main mystery that deals with a long lost family secret. I like that Diesel doesn't have psychic powers, he's just a sensitive cat that like many pets he's able to bring moments of levity to a difficult time. I also like that Charlie's circle of local friends and family has grown since the first book, but Diesel is still number one in his book. ( )
  FaytheShattuck | May 23, 2018 |
Charlie Harris has joined the Friends of the Library board just is time to help plan this year’s library Christmas fundraiser gala. That means staying out of way of the feud between Vera Cassity and the Ducote sisters Miss An’gel and Miss Dickcee. It seems no one in town really cares for Vera, even Charlie’s housekeeper, Azalea, seems to have it out for her. At the gala Charlie begins to understand why, no one ever taught Vera that “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” She had a few nasty arguments with almost everyone at the gala that night, and one of these arguments happens to be her last. While Vera wasn't the life of the party but her death turns the party upside down. She's found dead by Azalea who was standing over her body. Charlie knows there's more to the story so with a bit of help his loyal feline sidekick Diesel, he sets out to catch the killer before an innocent person goes to jail for the crime.

I have enjoyed watching the relationship between Charlie and and his children Sean and Laura, grow and become stronger as they each live their own lives while living together. This is a well plotted with a few red herrings dropped in here and there. There's also a mini-mystery within the main mystery that deals with a long lost family secret. I like that Diesel doesn't have psychic powers, he's just a sensitive cat that like many pets he's able to bring moments of levity to a difficult time. I also like that Charlie's circle of local friends and family has grown since the first book, but Diesel is still number one in his book. ( )
  FaytheShattuck | May 23, 2018 |
Charlie Harris is a librarian in Athena, Mississippi. He’s also on the board of the Friends of the Library, and one night while they are having a meeting at his home, he is privvy to an unfortunate conversation between the Ducote sisters, grande dames of Athena society, and Vera Cassity, an upstart who aspires to their position. Vera argued that her home, Ranelagh, would be the only one to hold the gala, as it had the largest dining room. But An’gel Ducote was nothing if not astute and sharp-witted, and managed to convey the fact that it would be difficult to ask people for money if they weren’t having fun - and there was nothing fun about a sit-down dinner. After this uncomfortable conversation, Vera left in a huff - once she realizes the rest of the board members agreed with the Ducotes.

But Vera isn’t about to give up easily - she goes so far as to threaten Charlie and even his boarder Justin, who is the recipient of a scholarship from Vera; and even Diesel, his Maine Coon cat.. It seems she really will stop at nothing to get her way. Things get worse when Charlie’s housekeeper Azalea finds out she’s been in the house and threatens to quit if she shows up again - but won’t tell Charlie why she hates her as much as everyone else seems to do.

When the library gala is held and Vera shows her usual asperity, the Ducotes have one more trick up their sleeve to stop her in her tracks. But when she storms off and Charlie later hears Azalea calling for help, he finds her locked in a room...with the body of Vera. It appears she either fell or was pushed down the stairs, and Sheriff Tidwell sets his sight on Azalea as the murderer - if only to make her daughter, his deputy Kanesha Berry, uncomfortable and look bad to the public.

So Kanesha, who has always been aloof and professional towards Charlie, asks him to help clear her mother's name and find the true murderer. She knows that Charlie has a knack for putting clues together, and since he's sure Azalea is innocent, agrees to help her. But when Charlie starts digging into which person wanted Vera dead - and there were probably many - it comes down to who would be willing to commit murder in order to silence her forever...

I've read four books in this series, and at least this one had not only the murder to consider, but a subplot or two to keep things fairly interesting. In this book Charlie's relationship with Helen is moving forward, along with those of his son and daughter's. They don't take precedence over the murder, however; and that's how it should be. We also learn a little bit more about Azalea's family, although nothing new on her dynamics with her own daughter.

All in all, I have to wonder if there's any vegetables grown in Mississippi aside from green beans. They seem to have them with almost every meal (and on a side note, I detest them myself). Maybe Azalea can introduce everyone to the pleasures of eating corn or peas - or even carrots once in a while. I would also caution Sean to move out quickly, since every member of Charlie's household has been suspected in a murder case so far. Just a thought...

Also, while Charlie might own a Maine Coon, he obviously doesn't know you can't give cats garlic. It's toxic. Yet he has no problem feeding this to his feline, while giving your cat a small amount of cheese won't hurt it. Yes, many cats are lactose intolerant, but not all. I'm a lifelong cat owner, and I've had plenty of cats that love cheese and it doesn't hurt them. But garlic? NEVER!

In the end, when the murderer was found out it seemed to me slightly extreme of this person since they really gained nothing at all from the deed that I could tell. I would have liked to have seen a much better reason for the murder than what was given. However, since I've already gone this far into the series I will probably proceed, since I've read much worse books and survived. At least this was the best of the four so far, so there's hope yet. ( )
  joannefm2 | Feb 5, 2018 |
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In loving memory of my two feline companions, who provided some much more than mere company for seventeen years.
Marlowe (1994-2011)
Booboo (1994-2012)
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'Charlie Harris, what are you doing hiding in the kitchen?'
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[An excerpt from Stewart discussing Vera Cassity with Charlie]

....'I do feel sorry for her sometimes. She tries to get people to like her; she just doesn't understand the basic principle -- that you have to be nice to people yourself. Plus, she has a chip the size of Mount Rushmore about growing up dirt-poor. She's so sure people resent her for Monty's money, she comes across like a lion getting ready to feast on an arena full of terrified Christians.' (chapter 4)
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Everyone in Athena, Mississippi, knows Charlie Harris, the librarian with a rescued Maine coon cat named Diesel. He's returned to his hometown to immerse himself in books, but when a feud erupts between the town's richest ladies, the writing on the wall spells murder.… (more)

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