Book Review/Synopsis



by Lilian Jackson Braun

             When I first picked up this book I thought I would be reading about a cat who talked to ghosts, a great story for late October!  Surprise!  Not so.  This is the first book I’ve read of this author and I guess I was expecting more of an interaction with cats.  Yes, there is a prominent cat, Koko and a not so prominent sidekick, Yum Yum.  However, they do take a far back seat in the story.

             Actually, the story is pretty good in itself.  There are a series of these “The Cat Who _______” Books and this one follows several previous ones.  As a result, the main characters have a history which comes to play in each novel. 

             Jim Qwilleran, along with his two cats, are the continuing characters.  It is learned that he had been a jounalist.  However, at age fifty Qwill came into an enormous inheritance which left him quite wealthy. He retired and moved to Pickax City where he lived quite economically in a bachelor apartment with his two Siamese cats.  He wrote a column for the local paper and used his fortune for philanthropy.

             One evening, as he was relaxing and trying to enjoy an opera cassette of Othello, his phone rang.  It was a call from a very dear old friend Mrs. Cobb.  She was hearing strange sounds throughout her house and was very frightened.  They had started two weeks earlier and were getting worse. He told her to pack an overnight bag and he would be over to pick her up and drive her to her friend’s house in town.

             When he arrived twenty minutes later her house was in total darkness.  He used his flashlight and turned on the light switch when he entered.  He found his friend dead on the kitchen floor.

             The local sheriff surmised she had died of a heart attack having had heart problems.  Yet, could it have been of fright?

             Mrs. Cobb was the Resident Manager of the Goodwinter Farmhouse Museum and she lived in one wing of the historic building. 

             Folklore abounded around the death of Ephraim Goodwinter – was it suicide or was it a lynching?  His ghost was said to roam the area as well as those of thirteen miners who had been killed in a mine accident. The wealthy Goodwinter owned the mine and the accident was blamed on his miserly economies in not providing adequate safety for the workers.  Sightings and sounds were often noted in the area.

             Knowing Mrs. Cobb very well, and after surveying the circumstances, Qwilleran’s journalistic mind harbored the fear that his friend’s death was a homicide.

             The more he dug, the more it became inevitable that she had been murdered. With the aid of several mutual friends the plot thickens. An old rumor surfaces about Ephraim having buried an amount of gold under his house which could provide a motive. Several suspects emerged, yet there was no proof.

             The more Qwill delved into the history of the Goodwinter history, the more he learned about the reasons that lead to Mrs. Cobbs death. Finally, the discovery of some secret documents, well hidden away, gives him the needed clue to put all the pieces together.  With a bit of subterfuge the killer is brought to justice.

             The story moves along at a nice pace, with all the characters interacting well.  There is suspense, a bit of romance, and of course, some comic relief with Koko and Yum Yum.  There are some loose ends, but then again, it’s not a complicated story and meant more for entertainment than analysis.  It’s a good read for a crisp, blistery day.

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