Book Review “The Cat Who” Books by Lillian Jackson Braun

By Ruth (Monty’s mom)

Monty and books

Photo by Ruth (Monty’s mom)

Having read and enjoyed every single book of “The Cat Who” series by Lillian Jackson Braun, I looked forward to sharing my love of these mystery novels with visitors to PoC. However, I am saddened to have just learned that the author of these wonderful cat books passed away in 2011, just prior to her 98th birthday. Her long life gave her great insight into cat behavior and human nature, as well as extensive knowledge on a variety of subjects, which she incorporated into her books. I felt I was always learning something while reading a new “Cat Who” book.

The series began back in the 1960’s, but it seemed to Braun that the market for mystery novels at the time was not right for her books, since most mysteries featured a lot of sex and violence. However, she started writing them again in the 1980’s and they became very popular, especially among cat lovers. She lived with Earl Bettinger, her second husband, and their two cats, dedicating each book to “Earl Bettinger the husband who…”

The main character of her novels, James Mackintosh Qwilleran, has this to say about cats:

“Cats are cats…the world over. These intelligent, peace-loving, four-footed friends—who are without prejudice, without hate, without greed—may someday teach us something.”

Qwilleran lives with two cats, Koko and Yum-Yum. Koko is short for “Kao K’o-Kung. Both cats are Siamese, and for the most part only Koko helps solve mysteries. Koko is, or may be, supernatural. The reader is always left wondering whether Koko knew what he was doing unearthing a clue, or whether it was just normal feline behavior on Koko’s part that pointed Qwilleran in the right direction to solve the crime.

The earlier books have Qwilleran living in a big city, the name of which is never given, but it is probably in the Great Lakes area of the United States. In later books he moves to Moose County, which is 400 miles north of everywhere, but again probably in the area of Lake Superior or northern Lake Michigan. He inherits a fortune from his Aunt Fanny and becomes a billionaire. I suppose critics could fault Braun for creating such an implausible scenario.

But to me the books become more fun after Qwilleran doesn’t have to worry about money. He has more time to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong and uncover mysteries. He has a “luxurious moustache” which causes a tingling on his upper lip when something is not birthday. I knew she was elderly, but I had not learned of her quite right, and this leads him to investigate where others see nothing as being amiss.

Cat lovers who are not into mystery stories would enjoy “The Cat Who” series because of the amount of material dedicated to Qwilleran’s everyday life with two Siamese cats. He is a very good cat caretaker, often worrying about his cats. There are some tight situations, in which his cats are put into danger or potential danger, which really get my heart racing to read them. Although there is always a happy, or mostly happy, ending, Braun’s books can be somewhat melancholy. The joy Qwilleran gets from his life with two very special cats is often tinged with sadness, either from memories of earlier, less happy times in his life, or from reflecting on the tragedy which happens in the lives of those around him. The sadness doesn’t overwhelm.

To me, it creates stories that are very much like real life, making the books very believable and real, even when there are elements of the plot that seem improbable, such as Qwilleran’s large inheritance from an aunt he barely knew.

I would recommend “The Cat Who” books for cat lovers, and I envy those who have not yet read any of these excellent novels. I remember waiting expectantly for the newest “Cat Who” book to come out, because each time it was like re-entering a whole world. Moose country is an enjoyable place to visit and a great change of pace for those of us stuck living in the big city “down below” (as residents of Moose County say.) When I have the opportunity to travel to northern Wisconsin I sometimes think of Moose County and wonder if living up north would be like living there. Of course it would never be the same without Qwilleran and his two remarkable Siamese cats.

By Ruth and Monty (who says he is the only Cat Who matters, so stop typing and pay attention to him already!)

Facebook Comments

Comments

Book Review “The Cat Who” Books by Lillian Jackson Braun — 20 Comments

  1. ” Monty (who says he is the only Cat Who matters, so stop typing and pay attention to him already!)”

    Lolol – this really made me laugh. But thanks for telling us about these books Ruth – I will look out for them so next time I am on a plane or somewhere I would typically read a book – I’ll have one ready. I love books like that. They sound like nice books. I’m sure it’s sad when you get to the end of one and the story has to end.

    • Reading the Cat Who books helps to relieve stress, I think, especially the later books where Qwilleran lives in Moose County. You can read the books in any order. I did. The first one I read was “The Cat Who Tailed a Thief” and after that it was just whatever one I could find on the shelf at the bookstore, until finally I’d read them all and would wait eagerly for a new one. Finding the next book on the shelf was like Christmas morning every time. Most of my Cat Who books are hardcover, because I couldn’t wait for it to come out in paperback.

      • Monty, the reluctant model 😉 See his right ear pricked up listening to something stage right….Exit. He looks great though. The spitting image of Charlie.

        I’ll have a look at Amazon.co.uk. to see if I can buy one for Kindle. Thanks, Ruth, for being PoC book reviewer.

  2. omgoodness, Marc beat me to it. I was just about to put it in quotes: “The Cat Who Only Matters.” lol
    🙂 It is a wonderful tribute, Ruth(Monty’sCat)!

    • Monty doesn’t knead much, Caroline. He just stands on my head in the middle of the night if he needs something, ha, ha.

      I think Lillian Jackson Braun came up with a great formula for generating an endless stream of intriguing titles. Too bad they had to end. I read her last Cat Who book and waited and waited for the next book to be on the shelves, but nothing. Finally, I looked her up online and found out she was in her nineties. She kept writing these books right into her nineties. I wish she could have lived to be 105 and just kept right on writing until the end. Ninety seven just seems way too soon for her to go, even though that is a remarkably long life. Without her the world of Moose County 400 miles north of everywhere and Qwilleran, Koko and Yum-Yum is put on pause with no one to press the play button.

  3. We have our very own PoC book reviewer!
    Ruth I love your articles about books, you make me want to read them and I don’t really like reading animal books any more but I just have to put these on my wanted list 🙂

      • Sorry, Michael, I forgot all about making an avatar. I was busy all day, for the second day in row, working on lesson plans for the school where I teach music. I was scheduled to work as a physical therapist assistant today at a nursing home, but their caseload is down, so they won’t need me. I have to do some planning and practicing for my adult choir before rehearsal tonight, but I will make time to do my avatar.

          • Would the picture I’m using for my profile pic on Facebook work? It’s that one of Monty sitting out on my back porch, but I was able to crop it so it’s just him. But maybe I have something in my photo library that would work better. I’ll see how it goes, and I’ll let you know if I can’t figure it out. It’s below zero again out there, so I won’t be distracted by wanting to do things outside. Poor Monty just had to try to go out last night. He lasted about twenty seconds before he realized the cold was hurting his feet. He came back in doing this annoyed grunting meow and then looked at me like it’s my fault. I know how he feels though. I haven’t been out except to take out the trash in two days.

    • I think you would enjoy these, Ruth. I don’t know if you’d be able to buy them right off the shelf in Europe or not. You might have to order them from Amazon. I figured since they’ve been around since the 1960’s (some of them) and were quite popular, it would be possible to get them almost anywhere.

      • We may even be able to borrow them from our local library, if we ask for a book they try to find it for us and only charge 35p for a 3 week loan. Or for free if it’s already in stock.
        Annie Bruce sent me 3 signed copies of her ‘Cat Be Good’ for the 3 libraries in our area, I often look and see how many times they have been borrowed and it’s a very popular book. She also sent a signed copy each for Babz and me, we treasure them.
        It sounds extremely cold there Ruth, we are lucky so far with our winter in the North, the sun is even shining today!

        • I hope you are able to find them at your library, Ruth. Your library sounds wonderful!
          We got down to about fifteen degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) and that’s without windchill. The wind was really blowing too, making it just about unbearable out there– the kind of cold that actually hurts. The Cat Who books are set in this area, with the later books taking place in what we would call “way up north” to distinguish it from the “up north” that just means “a place you have to drive awhile to get to that’s not in the city.” The residents of Moose County get completely snowed in every winter. More fun to read about the cold and snow than to experience it. I’m starting to feel bad for indoor only cats. Monty and I are both missing our outside time.

  4. For Brits, you can buy one or two of her books on Amazon.co.uk. A reviewer called one a “gentle whodunnit”. The Kindle Price: £4.53 includes VAT. Cheap. This is for:

    The Cat Who Went Up the Creek (Jim Qwilleran Feline Whodunnit)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please only upload photos that are small in size of max 500px width and 50 KB size. Large images typical of most default settings on digital cameras may fail to upload. Thanks.