Monday, July 21, 2014

Case Study No. 1454: Charlie Harris

File M For Murder, by Miranda James (MPL Book Trailer #151)
Mooresville Public Library and Cauli Le Chat Video Productions present a book trailer featuring "File M For Murder," by Miranda James (a Cat in the Stacks Mystery).
Tags: Miranda James file for murder cat in stacks mystery novel fiction cauli le chat productions Mooresville Public Library Indiana MPL book trailer video Daniel Danny Buckley music soundtrack mysterious forest sunlit pathways fog
Added: 2 years ago
From: MPL46158
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Meet playwright Connor Lawton
Athena College's new writer-in-residence

Known for his sharp-tongued wit
Which can make people mad ...

Mad enough to kill

Laura is the prime suspect
She's librarian Charlie Harris' daughter

Now Charlie & his cat Diesel must search for clues

Can the real murderer be found ...
Before Laura is cataloged under M ... for Murder?

File M for Murder
(a Cat in the Stacks Mystery)
by Miranda James

Produced by
Mooresville Public Library

a Cauli Le Chat video

Music by
Daniel E. Buckley

"Sunlit Pathways" & "Fog"
from the CD
The Mysterious Forest
(c) 2012 by
Danny Buckley

"Animal Motion"
Animation (c) 2010 by
Megan Goodson



Athena College's new writer in residence is native son and playwright Connor Lawton, known for his sharp writing-and sharper tongue. After an unpleasant encounter, librarian Charlie Harris heads home to a nice surprise: his daughter Laura is subbing for another Athena professor. Unfortunately her old flame Connor Lawton got her the job.

But before Connor finishes his newest play, he's murdered - and Laura is the prime suspect. Charlie and his faithful cat, Diesel, follow Connor's cluttered trail to find the true killer before his daughter is forever catalogued under M...for murderer.



Series: Cat in the Stacks Mystery (Book 3)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley; Original edition (January 31, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0425246183
ISBN-13: 978-0425246184

The "Cat in the Stacks Mystery" series features Charlie Harris who has returned home to Athena, Mississippi to work as a librarian. He also has a sidekick that goes almost everywhere he goes, a rescued Maine coon cat named Diesel. Diesel is happy to don a harness and leash and travel around town with Charlie. Most of the people of Athena have adjusted to this huge cat and realize how friendly he is, they always have pats and treats ready for Diesel.

In "File M for Murder," Charlie is surprised when his daughter, Laura, returns home from Hollywood to fill in for another professor at the local college. Charlie, Sean and Diesel are thrilled to have her home.

He then learns that her old boyfriend, Connor Lawton, a playwright, is also at the college as a writer-in-residence, working on his new play and helped her get the job. Charlie in not at all impressed with the man who is just plain rude. Connor is also followed to Athena by an old girlfriend who believes she is the only woman good enough for Connor.

Before the sharp tongued writer can finish his play he is murdered and Charlie's daughter becomes the prime suspect. Charlie and Diesel are on the case. He soon finds many other viable suspects but can he find the real killer before any of his family or friends end up filed under M for murder.



Connor Lawton made an abysmal first impression on his initial visit to the Athena Public Library.

Now, four weeks later, I'd seen enough of the tattooed playwright to know he didn't improve on further acquaintance.

This afternoon, I wanted to curse my luck as I watched him amble toward the reference desk, where I waited to help library patrons.

From around my feet I heard an interrogative warble, and I glanced down at Diesel, my three–year–old Maine coon cat. He always seemed to sense when something, or someone, caused me stress or anxiety, and I had to smile. "It's okay, boy. Nothing to worry about."

Diesel warbled again and stretched, reassured.

"Talking to your feet?" Connor Lawton gave me a sour smile. He looked more like a prize fighter than a playwright, with his broken nose, buzzed haircut, and muscular frame. Today he wore a sleeveless shirt that revealed the colorful ink on his upper arms. The tattoos, Japanese in style, offered a stark contrast to his tanned skin and white shirt. A diamond stud glittered in his left ear.

"No, I was speaking to my cat. Remember him?" Lawton grimaced. "Unfortunately. Never seen such an unfriendly animal."

Now I wanted to laugh. Diesel likes almost everybody he meets. He's a very sociable, easygoing cat - a lot like me, actually. But there are some people who rub him the wrong way, and that's what Lawton did the first time he saw Diesel. The man immediately stuck his hand under the cat's belly and started to scratch, and Diesel was offended by the improper first greeting. He growled, Lawton jerked his hand back, and Diesel turned and stalked off.

Since then Diesel had no use for Lawton, and evidently it still rankled the man.

"I'm surprised they let you bring the beast to the library," Lawton said. He exaggerated his drawl when he continued, "But at least Ellie Mae ain't in here with all her critters."

I suppressed a heavy sigh while I felt Diesel place a paw on my knee. If he stood on his hind legs, he would be able to peer over the counter at the playwright. "What can I do for you today, Mr. Lawton?"

"Old newspapers." Lawton frowned, and for a moment he appeared troubled by something. "Research for the play I'm writing."

Ah, yes, the play. Lawton mentioned it frequently. By now every person in Athena knew that the brilliant young playwright Connor Lawton, the toast of Broadway and Hollywood, was in Athena for two semesters as writer–in–residence at the college. The fall semester started in ten days, but Lawton arrived in Athena early to settle in and "immerse the Muse in the fecund atmosphere of the literary South, the home of immortals like William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O'Connor."

The man's pretentiousness evidently knew no bounds. He even told me he was named for Flannery O'Connor, but that he had dropped the O' from his name because it sounded too artsy–fartsy.

"Are you looking for old issues of the local paper? We have access to a number of newspaper archives online, but the Athena Daily Register hasn't been digitized yet. At least, not prior to 1998."

"Local, at least for now." Lawton stared at me and frowned.

"If you'll follow me, then," I said as I headed around the desk to the open space in front, "I'll show you where the microfilm is."

"Whatever." Lawton moved closer and pointed to a spot behind me. "Does the cat have to come with us?"

"Yes, he does," I said as I glanced back at Diesel. "If he wants to, that is."

Diesel, his gaze intent on my face, chirped a couple of times before he turned and walked back behind the desk to sit with Lizzie Hayes, one of the circulation staffers. Good choice, Diesel. Lizzie is much nicer.

"Follow me," I repeated as I turned and walked away. I

heard Lawton mutter something from close behind me.

We walked down a hall near the desk, and I showed the playwright into a small room with filing cabinets, a couple of small tables, and two microfilm–reading machines.

I paused by the cabinets. "The films for the Athena Daily Register are here. The dates are on the cards on each drawer. When you finish with a roll, please put it in that basket on top of the cabinet." I stopped a moment to clear my throat. "Have you used microfilm readers like these before?"

Lawton nodded as he approached me. I moved aside to let him peer at the labels on the drawers. He squatted, pulled out one of the drawers, and examined its contents.

"Then, if there's nothing else, I'll head back to the desk."

"Yeah, thanks," Lawton said.

"You're welcome," I said, surprised. This was the first time he had uttered the word thanks in my hearing, despite the other times I had helped him.

I glanced at my watch on the way back to the reference-circulation desk. A quarter to three. Only fifteen minutes more on the desk, and then Diesel and I could go home. I looked forward to some quiet time. This had been a long, hot week, and a brief nap before I cooked dinner sounded appealing.

As I mulled possible menus, I resumed my seat behind the desk. Diesel left Lizzie and came back to me. I scratched his head as he rubbed against my right leg. He was an affectionate creature and didn't often stray far from my side - except to spend time with one of his many human friends. He was popular with the library's patrons, and he enjoyed them - as long as they didn't have small hands that wanted to pull cat hair, that is.

I helped two more people with their reference questions, and when I consulted my watch again, the quarter hour was down to three minutes.

The library's newest employee, Bronwyn Forster, offered a sweet smile as she neared me, ready to take my place. "Afternoon, Charlie. Has it been busy?"

"About the usual," I said. "When school starts next week, things will pick up."

Bronwyn nodded as she rubbed Diesel's head. She cooed at him for a moment, and Diesel warbled back at her. I knew Diesel would agree with me that Bronwyn, with never an unkind word for anyone, made a pleasant change from Anita Milhaus, the obnoxious woman she replaced two months ago.

I waited until Bronwyn finished petting the cat, and then Diesel and I bade her and Lizzie good–bye. I retrieved my briefcase from the office I shared with one of the full–time librarians on the Fridays that I volunteered. I put Diesel into his harness, attached the leash, and we were ready.

The hot August air slapped us both as Diesel and I left the library for my car. I opened the doors to let the heat out, then got in to crank the car and get the air conditioner going. In the meantime, Diesel hopped onto the floorboard on the front passenger side of the car. I detached his leash and stuck it in my briefcase.

On the way home, I thought longingly about a cool shower. I felt sticky from the heat despite the cold blast of air from the car vents.

I pulled into the driveway and hit the garage door opener. As the door rose, I saw Sean's car in its slot. I smiled, glad he was home from whatever mysterious errand he said he had to run today. I pulled my car in beside my son's, and I thought about the change in our relationship over the past five months. We were getting along much better now, and I enjoyed having him with me.

Diesel hopped out of the car and made it to the kitchen door ahead of me. I watched, grinning, as he opened the door. Earlier in the year he had learned how to do it by twisting the knob with his front paws, and I still got a kick out of watching him. I suspected my boarder, Justin Wardlaw, taught him the trick, although Diesel was smart enough to have figured it out for himself.

I followed my cat into the kitchen and closed the door behind us. Diesel loped off to the utility room, home to his litter box and food and water bowls. I followed his example and poured myself a glass of water. As I drank I heard laughter from the direction of the living room. I recognized the baritone rumble of Sean's voice, but there was a second voice. A female voice, and it sounded oddly familiar.

"It can't be," I said as I shook my head. My heart beat faster, and I set the glass on the counter.

Moments later I paused in the living room doorway and stared at the two people on the couch - my son, Sean, and my daughter, Laura.

She caught sight of me and jumped up. "Surprise, Dad!" She grinned as she ran to give me a hug.

I threw my arms around her and held her tight. "What a wonderful surprise." I glanced over at Sean, still on the sofa. He grinned broadly.

"Look at my movie star daughter." I released Laura and stepped back. I hadn't seen her since Christmas, and I was thrilled to have her here. Her visits home were all too infrequent. "You and Sean really put one over on me."

"Not a movie star yet, Dad, but I'm working on it." Laura laughed as she posed for me. Even dressed in jeans and an old linen man's shirt she was still beautiful and looked several years younger than her age, twenty–four. Like her brother she had curly black hair and expressive eyes. She had the gamine grace of Audrey Hepburn despite the fact that she was five–ten in her bare feet.

"I had a hard time not telling you on Wednesday when you called me." Laura laughed again. "I knew Sean would kill me, though, because we wanted it to be a real surprise." She took my hand and led me to the couch.

I sat with a child on either side of me. "So your mysterious errand was going to the airport in Memphis." I smiled at Sean, and he grinned.

I turned back to Laura. "How long can you stay? At least a week, I hope."

Laura exchanged a sly glance with her brother. "Actually, I can stay longer than that, if you can stand having me."

"Of course," I said, delighted.

"I'll be here through Christmas." Laura giggled at my stunned expression.

"That's wonderful," I said, somewhat bewildered. "But can you afford to be away from Los Angeles that long? Career–wise, I mean?"

Laura shrugged. "I guess I'll find out. But in the meantime I've got a pretty good gig here."

"What kind of gig do you have in Athena?" I couldn't imagine what kind of acting job she had found here that would last several months.

Before Laura could respond, my thirty–six–pound cat jumped into her lap, startling all of us.

"Diesel. You rascal." Laura hugged the cat as he warbled at her. Diesel adored my daughter, and the feeling was mutual. Last Christmas Laura threatened to catnap Diesel and take him back to California with her.

After a minute or so of loving attention to the cat, Laura focused again on me and Sean. "I'm going to be filling in at the college for a professor on maternity leave this fall. The person who was originally hired to do it got a full–time job and backed out, and I'm the last–minute replacement."

"That's wonderful," I said. "So you'll teach acting?" Laura nodded. "A couple of basic courses, plus I'll be helping with the fall productions of the Theater Department. Should be fun."

A cell phone ring interrupted our conversation. Laura frowned as she pulled the phone from the pocket of her shirt. "Sorry about that." She glanced at the display, then stuck the phone back in her pocket. "I am so not in the mood for him right now." She grimaced.

"Him who?" I had to ask. Was some guy bothering her?

A guilty expression flashed across her face. "Oh, it's just my former boyfriend. He's always having some kind of crisis. But what can you expect from a playwright?" She wrinkled her nose and frowned.

Playwright? Dismay hit me. No, surely not. Not him.

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