When I’m dining out alone, I’m usually reading a book while I eat. Right now I’m visiting with my Dad and we’ve been in quite a few restaurants. The other day we were at one of our favourite diners in Dundas — always a line-up but fast service and great food. At a table across the way was a lady eating alone and reading. Very engrossed in her book. I got curious. As she was getting ready to leave, I went over and asked what she was reading. It was a “Cat Who . . .” book by Lilian Jackson Braun, author of some 30 books and several short stories. The lady called it a “great Saturday read” and I knew just what she meant.
If I don’t have the whole set, I have pretty close to it. This is one of those series where I have to carry a list of what I have in my pocket book so I don’t end up with multiple copies of the same book. (My memory isn’t what it used to be.) Braun’s “Cat Who” series is a wonderful, lighthearted murder mystery series featuring James Qwilleran, a former reporter from ‘the big city’ and his Siamese cats, Koko and Yum-Yum. The series takes place in a small northern town in Moose County generally believed to be near the great lakes and described as being “400 miles north of everywhere”. His mother’s best friend whom he calls “Aunt Fanny” dies and leaves him the “vast Klingenschoen fortune” making him a billionaire. He finds this to be a nuisance and so creates a foundation for philanthropic endeavors, leaving himself free to convert a 4-story apple barn into a spring and fall residence, spend his summers on a cottage by the lake, and live in a condo development during those hard northern winters.
Despite his rustic surroundings, he is erudite and witty with a mustache that twitches when something is not right. It’s his Siamese cats, however, who constantly steal the show. Yum-Yum (named after a character in a Gilbert and Sullivan opera) is the quiet, affectionate one while Koko is the sleuth, digging up evidence, pointing out clues, and performing a “death dance” or a “death yowl” when someone’s death has is due to foul play.
All of the books in this series begin with the words: The Cat Who . . . and, like Braun’s hero, are extremely erudite and wittily written. They are indeed a great Saturday read: hard to put down, quickly devoured, and thoroughly savored. If you haven’t read any of these deliciously clever books, you might want to start at the beginning: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards . * * * * *