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Each of the “Cat in the Stacks” novels has centered on the family in some way. The core of the books is Charlie and his family, beginning with Diesel the Maine Coon cat in the first book, and then including his son Sean, daughter Laura, and others in subsequent books. The mystery plots in each of the books also center on family in some way.

In the latest book in the series, Arsenic and Old Books, the mayor of Athena, Lucinda Beckwith Long, presents Charlie with a set of Civil War-era diaries, a donation from the Long family to the college archive. The author of the diaries was Rachel Afton Long, and the mayor tells Charlie that the contents could help decide an upcoming election. Her son “Beck” Long is contending for a state senate seat against Jasper Singletary. The Longs and the Singletarys have a long history of distrust and discord between them. The Longs have been wealthy, one of the leading families of Athena for generations, while the Singletary clan consisted of poor subsistence farmers who claim their misfortunes were caused by the Longs.

Charlie naturally wonders how diaries written a century-and-a-half ago can impact the present. He is also astonished when two different women demand immediate access to them. A history professor desperate for tenure and a reporter whose reasons are murky both try their best to get their hands on the diaries. The situation is complicated by murder, and Charlie once again finds himself in the middle of the investigation.

As a student of history myself, and one whose family roots go back to 1831 in Mississippi, I wanted to write a story in which the distant past did affect the present. The Civil War era seemed a good place to start, and I thought incorporating the diaries of an antebellum woman a good way to open that window into the past. The result of all this is Arsenic and Old Books.

Other books in the series: