Here Kitty Kitty

Date Thu, November 6 2008

I recently purchased and read Two Cats, Three Tales a collective of the first The Cat Who.. novels by Lillian Jackson Braun. This collection contains The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern and The Cat Who Turned On and Off. Overall, I enjoyed these stories although they were a bit dated and short.

Chances are, if you’ve ever been to a bookstore then you’ve seen one or more of the books in Ms Braun’s series which originated in the late 1960s. It’s hard to not know of this New York Times bestselling author. I had first ran across these books several years ago but just got around to picking up this edition less than a month ago.

The main character of these stories is on Jim Qwuilleran who was once a major crime reporter in New York City but is now working columns which are strange to him: first art and then interior decorating. Although crime is no longer his official duty, he finds himself unable to investigate strange crimes that occur to individuals associated with the cultures he finds himself writing about.

In the Cat Who Could Read Backwards Qwilleran accepts an apartment from the much hated art editor of the Daily Fluxion, the paper for which Qwilleran works. Qwilleran finds the critic interesting if not strange and is quite taken by his cat whom Qwilleran calls Koko, a super sharp Siamese who can read backwards. Soon after, the director of an art studio which the critic seems to favor is found dead by his attractive wife, followed by a suspicious falling death of a local artist who calls himself a “Thingist” and headed up by the unnerving death of the critic himself. Qwilleran quickly finds himself investigating what he sees as three related deaths with the help of Koko who helps him unearth clues others have missed to reveal the mystery.

In The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, we find Qwilleran the new owner of Koko and in new digs as well. Qwilleran’s boss soon informs him that he will be working the Fluxion’s new interior design magazine and while Qwilleran initially wants to refuse, he accepts the position. Everything seems to go off without a hitch and Qwilleran is soon interviewing a local man with quite the collection of jade. However, immediately after the release of the new magazine, the collection turns up stolen and Qwilleran and the Daily Fluxion wonder if they painted a blueprint for the burglars. Furthermore, the collector’s wife has also died, apparently from natural causes. Meanwhile Qwilleran and Koko become friends with their new neighbour who soon turns up dead after Qwilleran features his apartment in the magazine. Once again Qwill and his cat Koko take a deeper look into a mystery where everything is not as it seems.

Lastly, The Chat Who Turned On and Off starts with Qwill needing a new abode, once more for himself, Koko and the new addition to their small family: Yum Yum who was once the cat of the jade collector’s wife. Qwilleran and his cats take an apartment in Junk Town, the area where upper class residents with too much time spend too much money on antiques and other junk. He soon finds himself on the case of an antique dealer who met an untimely death with a chandelier. As Qwilleran tries to write a prize winning piece about the Christmas spirit in Junktown, hs is met with another mystery when his new landlady’s husband also meets his demise. Will Koko aid Qwill in the investigation this time, or has his cat lost the crime solving touch?

I found these novels to be extremely quick and easy reads and spent only about a day on each of them. I didn’t find any parts of them to be especially boring but I did note that they were a bit dated and came off as the sort of family friendly reading material you might associate with Nancy Drew. Similar to old Nancy Drew novels, there were a few instances of words and opinions that could come off racists to Mexicans and blacks.

The mysteries themselves were all fairly complex and interesting but not entirely suspenseful. I never really found myself on the edge of my seat or biting my nails although I was enjoying reading.

Kim Qwilleran is definitely a likable character if not the most interesting one. He is fairly easy going and easy to appease with few enemies, although the culprits are not usually his biggest fans.

I think these novels show their age by how tame they are. Modern mysteries are much more suspenseful and not so family friendly. Still, they make for a good light read and, all things considered, have done well when it comes to standing the test of time. I would probably read more novels in the series based on my experience with Two Cats, Three Tales.

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