What else can be said about Lilian Jackson Braun, who has received rave reviews for 28 Cat Who... books and three short story collections? She reminds me of a good friend who is excellent at catching you up on the latest hometown news, spilling just enough detail to make it interesting yet not seeping over into gossip. For those of you who, like me, feel reluctant to read stories that may suffer from over-cuteness, let me put your mind at ease. This series, which stars James Qwilleran, the quintessential bachelor about town, and his two extraordinary feline housemates, is "purrfect" for when you need a break from the usual noir and mayhem. It's definitely more folksy than cutesy.
The Cat Who... stories are set in the town of Pickax, located in a northern state that is "about 400 miles north of everywhere." There the gentle folk go about the business of small town life, running their businesses, taking care of their pets, visiting sick neighbors, and partaking in various community activities that add to the charm of their village.
James Qwilleran is probably the most well-known Pickax-er since he inherited millions of dollars and set up an endowment fund to continue the town's beautification and culturalization. He also writes The Qwill Pen, a twice-weekly column for the Moose County Something in which he tackles such topics as "The Late Greats," "The History of Peonies" and "Smart Koko" anecdotes about his extraordinary male cat. There are also stories about Yum Yum, his female cat, but she has a lesser role in this tale.
Yet, despite the peaceful ambiance of Pickax and the polite society that abides there in genteel harmony, each Cat Who... installment has a mystery that usually involves murder. And, somehow with special powers from the cat planet or because he has 60 whiskers instead of the usual 48, Koko is instrumental in helping Qwilleran figure out who dunnit. Koko will knock a certain book off the shelf, chew up a newspaper article, or let out a death yowl that helps Qwilleran connect the dots.
In THE CAT WHO DROPPED A BOMBSHELL we find everyone in the midst of preparations for celebrating the town's sesquicentennial --- that's 150 years for those of you down below. When the nephew of the wealthy Ledfields arrives to sketch the famous converted apple barn that Qwill calls home, Koko begins acting up. Is it because the Ledfields' heir is grumpy, humorless and an ailurophobe, or is the cat on to something? The plot is expertly woven through the doings in Moose County and the folksy relationships that make all of Lilian Jackson Braun's books bestsellers.
So don't let the paranormal cat thing scare you off. Reach for any of the Cat Who... books when you need a smile and a charming quick read.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on December 26, 2010