Warning, this may contain “spoilers” of certain “Cat Who” mysteries.
This month I’ve decided to branch out into more of “Gavin’s” books. Next to my two and a half shelves of Agatha Christie were a few books by Lilian Jackson Braun (fiction -and that includes mysteries- is in alphabetical order).
I enjoy a good mystery, but I was slightly unprepared for the antics of a cat named Koko and his trusty sidekick Yum Yum. I’m accustomed to Hercule Poirot and his trusty friend and follower Hastings, or Miss Marple and her invisible Nephew Raymond.
When I picked up The Cat who ate Danish Modern I was completely unaware of what to expect. I was thinking Danish Modern, like pastry, not like furniture (although both are nice). I was even less prepared for the story of a divorced newspaper writer who lived with an intelligent Siamese (the intelligent Siamese part wasn’t surprising, my parents Seal Point cat frequently amazes), and was assigned to write about interior decorating.
Interesting. An easy read, not particularly gripping, or thrilling, some spots were a little vague, but I’m sure if I read a few more The Cat who [did Something Amazing and Spectacular] mysteries I’ll fill in some of the finer details about the characters.
The Cat who knew Shakespeare was the next The Cat who book I decided to read. Koko and Yum Yum play smaller rolls. Qwilleran’s mustache has a bigger part, as does the impending snow storm that doesn’t seem to be able to get it’s act together. I was rather upset when Ms. Jackson Braun decided to kill off Qwill’s entrepreneurial friend, his death did nothing for the plot, after all, he was heading to Florida anyway, why KILL him?!
The Cat who Moved a Mountain finds the intrepid trio (Qwill and cats) in the middle of nowhere on Potato Mountain renting out the Tiptop estate. He duly gets involved with local scandal, a murder, a falsely convicted man, and the people who live on the “wrong” mountain. I still don’t see how Koko helped solve anything, he was just being inquisitive, and difficult (in other words, he’s a cat).
About part way through reading the back of The Cat who Played Post Office, I realized I was reading the books in an order that was clearly not chronological.
For some sense of chronological order: The Cat who ate Danish Modern (in which Yum Yum is acquired), The Cat who Played Post Office (in which the millions are inherited), The Cat who Knew Shakespeare (in which he has millions), and finally, The Cat who Moved a Mountain (after he’s got his millions). I strongly suspect that my order may be missing a few books.
The Cat who Played Post Office wasn’t titled properly. The post office aspect, Koko bringing Qwill the mail, was overshadowed by the rest of Koko’s antics. It should have been The Cat who Sneezed at the Expensive French Perfume, or The Cat who Set Boobie-Traps in the Night, but those titles are a little long and not as catchy.
The Cat who Saw Red was mildly interesting. It centered around Qwill’s old flame Joy, her loser husband, and their pottery business. The story revolved around the pottery, poor social skills of the neighbors and the mysterious (unsolved) death of someone years previous. The color red also played somewhat of a role, but not a significant enough one (in my mind) to warrant being the title color. The Cat who Played with Pots would’ve been better.
The Cat who tailed a Thief revolves around the weather, an Ice Festival, and a house restoration project that sounds a little too good to be true. Koko does his part by knocking books off the shelf, yowling, and tormenting Yum Yum. Qwill spends his time wooing Polly (the librarian), and interviewing people for his upcoming book on ghost stories of the area. Nothing much in the way of mystery happens until the last 30 pages.
I eventually branched out beyond Cat Who novels (I read all the ones we had in paperback) and picked up Enders Game. It was interesting. I’m not sure it’s a book I would read over and over and over again, but once wasn’t too bad. The book is about a little boy named Ender. His parents have to get permission for him to be born (they already have two children and the world is experiencing population issues).
Ender is taken away from his parents and siblings at a fairly young age and sent off to Battle School. He’s young, picked on, and quite good at what he does. He learns fast, and enjoys playing fantasy games on the school’s computers. The games he plays gets harder, as do his practice exercises. He graduates at a rather young age and (unwittingly) has more responsibility foist upon him.
The children in the book are supposed to be young, six, seven, eight, however, they behave like little adults. Perhaps this is because they are treated that way, or perhaps because the book is written by an adult and many of the themes discussed in the book are more mature as well.
Speaker for the Dead is supposed to be the stand-alone “sequel” to Enders Game. As LW would say: “It is made of fail.” It fails to capture the reader’s attention, keep it for very long, or even be mildly interesting, or maybe I just have a short attention span. Orson Scott Card just goes off the religious deep-end, assigns the characters names and nick-names that are similar and hard to keep straight, and generally fails at making a decent story. I’m still not entirely sure what it was about, and (what may be slightly worse) I don’t care.
The Beautiful Cigar Girl was a historical narrative about a young woman, Mary Rogers, and famed poet, Edgar Allen Poe. Poe attempted to capitalize on Mary Rogers murder with thinly veiled story based on her death. The first two hundred pages drag on while the last hundred or so were quite interesting. Over all The Beautiful Cigar Girl was not as good as The Devil in the White City which deals with the Chicago World Trade Fair, but it did offer an interesting view of Poe.
Open the Doors of the Temple: The Survival of Christian Science offers an interesting perspective on the movement from it’s inception until recently. It addresses the growth and decline of the movement, and many of the issues surrounding how it is treated by both the press and Christian Scientists themselves. The book calls for moderation, the use of common sense, and a realistic reexamining of MBE’s works. I do not fully agree with everything, but I do feel the book offers an interesting, thought provoking (if somewhat simplified) perspective.
To finish off the month I read Three Complete Novels: The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts; The Cat who Lived High; The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal. They are all set in the small town of Pickax and they all revolve around Qwillerian and his cats. Like the other Cat Who novels, they are short, easy to read, and only slightly disappointing when Ms. Jackson Braun kills off beloved characters.