Murder past due by Miranda James.*
Charlie Harris is a semi-retired, widowed librarian. Shortly after his wife Jackie died, his elderly aunt Dottie also passed away, leaving him her house in his hometown of Athena, Mississippi.
Charlie has continued Dottie's tradition of taking in as boarders students from Athena College, and his present tenant, 18-year-old Justin Wardlaw, is the son of his old school friend Julia.
Charlie works part-time at Athena College as their archivist, and is dreading the upcoming cocktail party honoring another schoolmate named Godfrey Priest, an unpleasant person who is now a successful thriller author. The afternoon before the welcome party, Godfrey pays Charlie a visit at his office, and announces his intention to donate his papers to his alma mater's archives. During the course of this visit, Godfrey reveals to Charlie that he is Justin's biological father due to a fling he had with Julia shortly before she married her husband Ezra, who was unaware of Justin's true parentage. He tells Charlie that he's planning on telling Justin the truth later that day, and wanted to give him advance warning, since the boy lives with him.
Charlie is at home getting ready for the cocktail party when he receives a call telling him it's been cancelled. Worried, because Justin has not yet returned from Godfrey's hotel room, and neither of them are answering phone calls. He finally decides to go to the hotel to check on Justin, for whom he feels a sense of responsibility. He finds Justin outside the building, and they enter Godfrey's room together to find him lying on the floor with his head bashed in.
Unsure why Justin hasn't already called the police, Charlie does so and then tries to think of a way to keep the boy from being arrested.
This is the first in the Cat in the Stacks mysteries by Miranda James (a pseudonym of mystery author Dean James. The "Cat" in the series title is Diesel, Charlie's Maine coon, who, though he (thankfully) doesn't speak, is very empathic to the humans around him. Charlie is a well-framed character, and I look forward to learning more about him in upcoming entries in the series.
*Reviewed ARC received from publisher.