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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Lilian Jackson Braun - The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (Jim Qwilleran Feline Whodunnit)

book review written and read live on the bookshow by Ro Bennett on 11th Dec 2014
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, vandalised paintings, a fatal fall from a scaffolding - this is not at all what Qwilleran expects when he turns his reporting talents to art. But now Qwilleran and his newly found partner, Koko the brilliant Siamese cat, are in their element - sniffing out clues and confounding criminals intent on mayhem and murder. 

This is the first in a series of detective books all featuring an intelligent Siamese cat called Koko. Qwilleran (Qwill to his friends) is a man who goes from late forties to mid fifties over the course of the series. His most distinguishing feature is his "luxurious moustache which is more than just facial hair -  when something is wrong or his instincts are right, he will get "a tingling sensation on his upper lip."

A recovering alcoholic, down on his luck and very broke, Qwilleran applies for a job at the local news agency in the city he has recently moved to. This former prestigious, prize-winning crime reporter finds himself reduced to the task of feature writer mainly reporting on the local art scene - something he knows very little about. However his life soon takes an interesting and rather alarming  turn with the stabbing of a gallery owner and the disappearance of a famous painting. Qwilleran finds himself drawn into the role of amateur detective as he tries to solve the mystery of this and subsequent deaths. 

This book was  written in 1966, and it was interesting to remember how much harder and slower it was to communicate and find out information without the modern technology we now take for granted, like mobile phones and the internet.

I enjoyed it, although I had to keep turning back pages to see who was who and when a murderer was revealed, I spent ages trying to find out where I had read the name previously and in what context. It was a charming and pleasant light-weight murder mystery, with a well constructed plot,   interesting characters, and lots of entertaining twists and turns. A relaxing read.

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