Sunday, September 12, 2021

Lending a Paw (Bookmobile Cat Mystery #1), by Laurie Cass (author), Erin Bennett (narrator)

Tantor Audio, December 2017 (original publication, December 2013)

Minnie Hamilton has been working in the job of her dreams, Assistant Library Director in the small resort town of Chilson, Michigan. Her latest proud achievement, in the face of her boss's cost-cutting preferences, is to get a bookmobile to service the areas no longer served by the now-closed branch libraries. She achieved this by getting a donation from uber-rich Stan Laraby, to purchase the bookmobile and fund the first year's operations. Stan has a reputation as a miser who gives money to no one, but he really values libraries (and, we later learn, other valuable public services), and not only provides the money, but works with her to plan the startup of services. And then, on her first day driving the vehicle, at her last stop on that day's route, she finds a dead body--Stan's. He's been shot.

Minnie isn't alone when she finds Stan's body; she has a formerly stray cat, Eddie, that decided to move in with her. She expects Eddie to stay home on her bookmobile days, as he does when she's at the main library, but on that momentous very first bookmobile day, he manages to stow away in her bag, and emerges too late for her to take him home. And when the library volunteer who was supposed to accompany her has to cancel due to serious illness in her family, Eddie becomes her paper-thin excuse for telling her boss, Stephen (Wrangle? I listened to the audioboook, so I'm not sure of the spelling), calls and directly asks if she's alone in the bookmobile, that no, she's not alone. (She's supposed to have a volunteer with her, as much for insurance reasons as having two people to service their stops.) It's Eddie, taking an unauthorized off-vehicle excursion, who first finds Stan's body. Eddie is also a big hit with the library users who greet the bookmobile at each of their stops, because she can't persuade him to stay curled up out of sight. This alarms Minnie, because Stephen is looking for any excuse to shut down the bookmobile and sell it, even if it's for pennies on the dollar.

Like a sensible person, at least at first, Minnie wants to leave the investigation of Stan's death to the police. Unfortunately, two things change this. One of Minnie's co-workers becomes a possible suspect, and when she does come across what might be  relevant evidence, the detectives working on the case seem to be ignoring that evidence. This leads Minnie, with help, whether intentional or accidental, from Eddie, conducting her own investigation.

And while she does try to be careful,  she eventually makes one mistake too many.

I have no experience with bookmobiles (I think I encountered one in real life just once), but I am a librarian, and Minnie comes across as a real librarian, as well as a likable, decent person, and, heaven help us, a pretty good fundraiser for the library (not just with Stan). The author clearly knows how libraries work and has decent idea of scheduling, the fine art of knowing what users will like when they don't know what to read next, and keeping clashing personalities on staff working fairly smoothly together.

We also get a good feel for Chilson as a community, and Minnie's friends and acquaintances there.

All in all, an enjoyable cozy mystery.


I bought this audiobook.

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