by Lilian Jackson Braun
Cat books about Thanksgiving are quite rare, indeed! I searched and came across a title that was certain to please: The Cat Who Talked Turkey. I figured I had a winner until the realization dawned “You can’t tell a book by it’s title”.
It was another in the series of The Cat Who______ books. As I eagerly read, it soon became evident that it was not about Thanksgiving. It wasn’t even about turkeys! Yes, there was a token appearance of a wild turkey somewhere in the middle of the story and another honorable mention of a wild turkey accompanied by several poults and other adults, on the second to the last page of the book. End of turkeys!
However, the story is quaint enough to be allowed the absence of these fowl. Once again, the rich bachelor Jim Qwilleran, with his two Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum, finds himself at his home in Pickax and in the midst of a flurry of activities. His town is about to have a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of a new bookstore on the ruins of what had once been a landmark used book store which had burnt to the ground. It is also making preparations for the city’s Sesquicentennial celebration.
As this is taking place the body of a well dressed man is found in the woods by the lake shore on Quill’s property. He had been shot execution style. This is kept hushed up for a while.
The neighboring town of Brrr is also in the course of a huge “Birthday Party” to commemorate it’s 200th anniversary. Qwill has agreed to do a one man show called “The Great Storm” which he is also to write. He had done a similar show the previous year on “The Big Burning” which was very successful. He depicted the part of a newscaster relating the event live. The “Big Storm” is to be done in a like pattern and he will need an assistant to work the sound track. This person is to activate the music, sounds and interviews which timely correlate with the newscaster’s reporting. The person he had last year moved away and a young woman is referred to him for the part.
She is visiting her affluent grandmother, Mrs. Carroll, who is living in a retirement community and is planning to leave her Mount Vernon style home to her granddaughter, Alicia. Lish, as she is known, is accompanied by a scruffy young man who she claims is her driver as she cannot drive herself due to heart problems.
Lish meets Qwill and works with him for the assistant part in the play. She does well, yet Qwill has doubts about her reliability. When she goes back to Milwaukee for a short trip he decides to find a stand-in, just in case.
While she’s away, Qwill goes to interview Mrs. Carroll for an article he’s writing for the local paper. He admires her priceless collection of miniature porcelain shoes and heirloom furniture she has in her apartment. In conversation he learns how she is planning to leave her home and all the historical antiques in it to Lish. She is plagued by a doubt as she realizes her granddaughter will sell the home and all the antiques, even though she already has a trust fund.
Qwilleran makes a suggestion that perhaps she would consider presenting her Mount Vernon home to the community as a memorial to be revered as a museum. She admits she had been thinking along those lines ever since she saw how her granddaughter had littered and disrespected the premises while she was visiting and living there. She decided that would be the right thing to do.
Lish delays in Milwaukee so Qwill begins the first of several performances of “The Big Storm”. On opening night he and his assistant receive a boisterous standing ovation from the spectators! I might add, from the readers as well! This is definitely the pinnacle of the book.
When Lish returns she is disquieted by her grandmother’s decision about the house. On the day of the dedication of the Carroll Memorial Museum, she opts to stay at the apartment while her grandmother goes to the ceremony.
During this time she absconds with her grandmother’s priceless collection of porcelain shoes. She drives off alone leaving her driver behind. Later that afternoon, there is a news report of a tragic car accident involving a young girl and a bus.
That evening, the driver shows up at Quilleran’s home, disheveled and hungry. They meet outside in the gazebo and Quill brings him the sandwich he had been preparing for himself. He brings Koko out with him. The young man confesses to Qwill that he was Lish’s shooter. Thinking he meant photographer, the young man shows him the pistol he was carrying instead. Qwill realizes he’s on drugs and, saying that he needs a good lawyer, goes into the house to get his phone number while calling the local sheriff at the same time. Suddenly, he hears a shot. “No! Koko!” Qwill yells out.
This is a pretty simple story that has several tangents either going nowhere or loosely coordinated. The secondary plot involving Lish is quite weak and not very well put together. However, it’s a quick read and offers effortless literature for simple entertainment to wile away a few hours.