Mini-Post by the Belle
Title: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards
Author: Lilian Jackson Braun
Series: The Cat Who….
Summary: The world of modern art is a mystery to many. But for Jim Qwilleran, it turns into a mystery of another sort when his assignment to cover the art beat for the Daily Fluxion leads down the path to murder. A stabbing in an art gallery, vandalized paintings, a fatal fall from a scaffolding–this is not at all what Qwilleran expects when he turns his reportorial talents to art. But now Qwilleran and his newly found partner, Koko the brilliant Siamese, are back in their element–sniffing out clues and confounding criminals intent on mayhem and murder.
Belle Rating: C
Target Audience: Young Adults – Adults
*Minor Spoilers Below* – may include plot details such as: important names or events
Story Notes: The story unfolds with Jim Qwilleran, a tall, older man with a mustache, coming to town to potentially take on a job that is offered by the Daily Fluxion. He has worked many years as a reporter and has quite the reputation, but a job as an art writer is something completely different than his norm. At first he was thinking about declining the job. However, after talking to the other workers, he realized that the people in this town fight amongst themselves about art and that intrigued him enough to take on the job. The cause of a lot of this bickering is an art critic by the name of George Bonifield Mountclemens III. He also works from home for the Daily Fluxion.
After a few interviews with the local artists, he realizes just how many people hate Mountclemens, so he decides to meet him. Mountclemens turns out to be an eccentric man whose home is filled with so much expensive art pieces it could be a museum. He also owns a Siamese named Kao K’o-Kung (Jim calls him Koko for short) who also enjoys art, loves his gourmet meals, and reads the newspaper backwards (You will see later in the story just how intelligent this cat is and at times picks up on things that Jim looks over). After dinner, Mountclemens offers Jim one of the apartments downstairs which Jim gratefully accepts. Shortly after Jim moves in and Mountclemens leaves to go to New York for his job, a local art gallery owner dies. Then a local artist falls to his death from a scaffolding…and then Mountclemens comes back and dies. Murder Party!! Woohoo!
I really hate being so vague, but I believe if I go over any more information then it would spoil the mystery for you.
Writing Style: Braun does not make smooth transitions in her story very well. In one paragraph, her main character is sitting in a bar talking and drinking with his friends and in the next it’s the following day, on the other side of town, and he is talking to the wife of one of the murder victims. This isn’t necessarily a problem. I think some authors can get carried away with all the details. It’s just something to get used to while reading.
Weaknesses: I find that in a good murder mystery (*cough* Agatha Christie *cough*) just about all of the people mentioned in the book are somehow or another linked to the murder(s). That link could make them suspects or it could make them innocent. That is not what Braun did in this story. She introduced a lot of characters in this book, which wouldn’t have been so bad if some of those characters didn’t pop up later in the book after the murders occurred. It was like she was making a poor attempt to throw you off the trail without putting in a bit more effort to connect everyone to the awful situation.
The murderer is not someone you really know. When the individual was finally revealed, I had no idea who they were because I didn’t remember reading about them earlier in the novel. And yet Jim acted like he knew who they were *sigh* I think that is what frustrated me the most.
Strengths: This was a very easy book to read. I was almost done with the book in a day, which is saying a lot because I am a mom and those with kids will understand just how amazing that is. I absolutely love the relationship between Jim and Koko. They work very well together and I would like to see what mysteries this dynamic duo will unravel next.
Final Thoughts: While this is my first murder mystery book, I feel that I can determine what is good and what isn’t thanks to Lauren introducing me to the Poirot TV series (looooovvvveee it by the way). If I were to judge this book on its own, I would say it could definitely be improved upon. However, this is in a series and I don’t know if all the people Braun was introducing will turn up in the later books. Who knows, Jim could have the same problem Mrs. Fletcher (“Murder She Wrote” is also good!) did where everyone he meets ends up dying. So I will continue reading her books, use them in later posts, and keep you updated!