Saturday, May 10, 2014

What a Character!

Charlie Harris from the "Cat in the Stacks" series by Miranda James

When you're a librarian by profession, people assume that you spend a lot of your time reading. Sometimes they even think you sit behind a desk in the library and read all the time. That is not the case, however, for most librarians, because there are many tasks necessary to keep a library running efficiently.

I do love to read, though, and I spend a fair amount of time with a book in my hands -- and a Maine Coon cat either partially in my lap or stretched out somewhere nearby. (Diesel is too big to fit in my lap completely, so it's usually a matter of one end of him or the other, depending on his mood.) My preferred reading is a mystery novel, and my tastes in mysteries range pretty widely. Though I do read stand-alones, I really love series because once I find a character or set of characters I like, I find it enjoyable to revisit them -- like spending time with good friends.When I'm working the reference desk at the Athena Public Library or sometimes when I spend time in the local bookstore, The Atheneum, I end up chatting with people about my favorite mystery series characters. Here's a list of a few favorites.

1. Albert Campion -- He first appears in 1929 as a shady character in Margery Allingham's novel The Crime at Black Dudley (also known as The Black Dudley Murder) but thereafter he becomes the hero
with an interesting connection to the English royal family. He often appears to be a bumbling fool, but that is part of his method for appearing harmless -- and he is far from that. I love Allingham's work for the richness of the language and the quality of imagination it shows, as well as the fact that she evolved with the times more than did her counterparts of the Golden Age.

2. Miss Jane Marple -- Who doesn't know Agatha Christie's spinster sleuth? When I read the first Miss Marple novel, The Murder at the Vicarage, I saw my beloved Aunt Dottie as Miss Marple. Later on, when Joan Hickson played her so brilliantly on television, she became my image of Miss Marple. I love the fact that Miss Marple has no illusions about human nature and that she uses her knowledge to solve crimes. Her village of St. Mary Mead is a microcosm, and in that environment, she has seen it all. People tend to dismiss her as an old lady -- and therefore ineffective -- but they soon learn that she is a force to be reckoned with.

3. Roderick Alleyn -- The younger son of a distinguished family, Roderick chose to go into the police force instead of the diplomatic service as his family wanted. He is urbane, witty, and handsome, and he quickly gains a reputation at Scotland Yard as a detective. His creator, Ngaio Marsh, was involved in the theater, and her ability for setting the stage and writing clever dialogue stems from that. Death of a Peer (also published as A Surfeit of Lampreys), in which Alleyn tangles with an aristocratic family, is my favorite of her books.

I could go on, but for the moment, I think I will settle down with a good book, a cat, and a cup of tea...


  1. Dismiss Miss Marple? At your own peril. One ought never dismiss a little old lady!