LILIAN JACKSON BRAUN – The Cat Who Went Underground. Jim Qwilleran #9. Putnam, hardcover, 1989. Jove, paperback, September 1989.

   I like cats all right, and I’ve even discovered I can put up with them in detective stories. This is the first of the adventures of semi-retired Jim Qwilleran and his two Siamese pets (Koko and Yum Yum) I’ve read, and while I’m not sure I’m totally converted, it was amusing.

   Braun’s style is a combination of breathless exclamation points with a rural folksiness of a northern Michigan sort that also manages not to be condescending. I do wish, however, that she’d allowed more than the last 40 pages for the detective work to take place.

   To wit. While there are lots of hints concerning some sort of mysterious activity that is taking place, sometimes through the astrology columns in the newspaper, sometimes through a fortune-teller friend, Qwilleran does not find the body of the first known murder victim (under the floor of his cabin on the lake) until page 161.

   Until then, what we’re given is a more-or-less hilarious account of the vicissitudes of a city man trying to cope with life in the “wild” — toilets that don’t flush, water heaters that don’t heat, coons in the chimney, and so on. (I guess I’ll probably stay where I am.)

— Reprinted and somewhat revised from Mystery*File #21, April 1990.


Bibliographic Notes:   The first three books in Braun’s “Cat” series were published between 1966 and 1968. There was then a gap of 18 years before the fourth one came out, when the author was 75, and something strange happened. It became an overnight success and sold a ton of copies.

   So successful that there were 25 more, with the last one, The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, appearing in 2007, when Braun was 94. She died in 2011 at the grand old age of 98.