1986; 215 pages. Book #2 (out of 29) in “The Cat Who…” series. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Crime Mystery; Cozy. Overall Rating : 6½*/10.
Jim Qwillleran just got promoted by his newspaper employer, The Daily Fluxion. So why isn’t he excited? Well, mostly because they want him to head up a new section to the paper, which will be called "Gracious Abodes", and feature interior decorating of some of the local well-to-do homes and businesses. Unfortunately, Jim Qwilleran doesn’t know squat about Interior Decorating.
Things go from bad to worse when terrible things happen to the first three featured residences immediately after their insides are published. There’s a robbery-&-death, a police raid, and a murder.
But that just gives Qwilleran and his pet Siamese cat Koko an opportunity to investigate the crimes. Well, not the police raid, anyway. That “house” turned out to be a brothel.
What’s To Like...
The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern is first and foremost a Crime Mystery, but its real draw is the sparkling wit and humorous situations that saturate the book from beginning to end. Qwilleran and his photographer buddy, Odd Bunsen (what a name!), are fun to tag along with, and Koko is a cat with some most extraordinary talents.
There are lots of possible suspects to meet and sniff, and the motives for the two deaths are anything but obvious. Indeed, the modus operandi for both of them is also unclear. It pays to have a feline partner who can walk along balcony ledges and jump from one 15th-story apartment to another.
This is a “cozy”, so there’s not much blood, gore, and onstage violence. Interior Decorating is not the most exciting topic to spotlight, but Lilian Jackson Braun keeps your interest by avoiding info dumps and populating the profession with a passel of secret-hiding oddball characters.
There’s a smattering of French, which always is a plus for me. The title refers to Koko’s appetite for an expensive chair, not for food. And the second cat in the series, Yum Yum, gets introduced to us late in the tale. This is a standalone novel.
Kewlest New Word...
Blinger (n.) : a superlative example of its kind. (here “This job was a blinger!”)
Others : Supercilious (adj.).
“Our profession is above suspicion,” said Qwilleran. “You never hear of a newsman turning to crime. Doctors bludgeon their wives, lawyers shoot their partners, and bankers abscond with the assets. But journalists just go to the Press Club and drown their criminal inclinations.” (loc. 451)
“Mrs. Middy is a little late this morning, but then Mrs. Middy is always a little late. Would you care to sit it out?” She waved a hand dramatically around the studio. “I can offer you a Chippendale corner chair, a combback Windsor, or a mammy settle. They’re all uncomfortable, but I’ll talk to you and take your mind off your anguish.” (loc. 799)
The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern sells for $5.99 at Amazon. Most of the rest of the books in the series are also $5.99. A couple of the newer ones sell for $7.59.
“These days we all conform. You cats are the only real independents left.” (loc. 72)
As a tale of wit and humor, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern succeeds nicely. The main characters are likeable and the dialogue is entertaining throughout.
However, as a Crime-Mystery, the story leaves a lot to be desired. Qwilleran’s efforts to investigate the two deaths amounts to nothing but wheel-spinning and waiting for Koko to magically point out the key clue(s) without any fathomable reason for doing so. The culprits seem to be arbitrarily chosen, with hurried explanations given at the end of the book for why they done it.
This is not the first time I’ve run across a cozy that's long on the charm but short on the plot. Maybe I’m expecting too much of my cozies, but in a series such as Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael, just as much attention is paid to the crime investigation as to the coziness.
I have one more The Cat Who… book sitting on my TBR shelf, and most or all od the series is available from my local library in both “real” and electronic versions. Perhaps I should just read them for the wittiness and cattiness.
6½ Stars. Add 1½. stars if you prefer amazing animals solving the crimes for you, to figuring them out yourself.