Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Cat Who Brought Down The House - Lilian Jackson Braun

   2003; 246 pages.  Book #25 (out of 30) in The Cat Who” series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Cozy Mystery; Cat Fiction.  Overall Rating : 3½*/10.

    Thelma Thackeray is coming back to Pickax, way up there in Moose County, close to the Canadian border.  After a 55-year career in Hollywood, the 82-year-old spinster says she’s “returning home to die.”  But she adds, “but not right away.  First I want to have some fun.”

    Well, the backwoods folks of Moose County are sure glad a celebrity’s coming to live with them, even if nobody can quite recall what movies she starred in.  It’s already hinted that she’ll bring an upgrade in culture to Pickax.  Art shows, a cat pageant, private film showings (of the classics), and what have you.

    But she’s also bringing a lot of money and a lot of jewels with her.  Let’s just hope that doesn’t encourage someone to commit a crime involving the newest Pickax resident.

What’s To Like...
    There are several plot threads in The Cat Who Brought Down The House.  The old opera house is being sold, and no one knows to whom or for what purpose.  Cultural events are the new norm now.  And of course, everyone wants to meet and kiss up to the new celebrity, Thelma.

    There are also several “crime mystery” threads, but those are less clearly defined.  There’s a report of a birds-napping, although the alleged victim denies it.  Someone got murdered in Bixby, but that’s 90 miles away.  And now there are even some whispers about Thelma’s twin brother, Thurston, who died while hiking many years ago, and whether that was an accident as was concluded at the time.

    The 246 pages are divided into 22 chapters, so there’s always a convenient place to stop for the night.  I found TCWBDTH to be a fast and easy read, although since this was my second book from the series, I was expecting that.

    There’s a modicum of French (“a bientot”), and foreign language snippets are always a plus for me.  Koko has developed a death howl since I read the other “The Cat Who” book from this series, which was a much earlier installment.  It is an interesting plot device, although I found it somewhat unbelievable.  The title is explained on page 218, but frankly, it isn’t a minor detail.

    There are a number of “sidebars” (for lack of a better term) sprinkled throughout the book.  Some of them are Qwilleran’s weekly newspaper column.  Others seemed just to be anecdotal topics made up by the author.  Milo the Potato Farmer, How Pleasant Street Got Its Name, The Incredible Moose Country Blueberries, etc.  In short, this book oozed “cutesy wutesy-ness”, and if that’s what you read Lilian Jackson Braun’s stories for, you will not be disappointed.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Cairngorm (n.) : another term for smoky quartz.
Others : Etagere (n.).

    “We compared notes and personal feelings and came to the conclusion that libraries aren’t as much fun as they used to be, twenty years ago.  Libraries, we said, used to be all about books!  And people who read!  Now it’s all about audios and videos and computers and people in a hurry.  What used to be serenely open floor space is now cluttered with everything except books.  Even the volunteers find it less attractive work, and stop reporting on schedule.”  (pg. 161)

    ”This is a funny title,” she said when Qwilleran came down the ramp.  She was looking at How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler.  “If you can read a book on how-to-read-a-book,” she said, “why do you need to read this book?”
    “Some day I’ll lend it to you, and you’ll find out.”  (pg. 196)

 “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.”  (pg. 106)
    Alas, there are some serious problems with The Cat Who Brought Down The House.  You get introduced to a slew of Pickaxians, but most of them are of no importance to the story.  I'm guessing they are recurring characters in the series, but to be frank, I didn’t care about them.

    The ending is just downright terrible, insanely contrived, and with nary a plot twist in sight.  The author seemed more interested in giving you her cute asides than in developing a storyline.

    And last and worst, the crime-mystery aspect is virtually stillborn.  Qwilleran never really does any investigating (neither do his cats), yet magically he unravels all three of the aforementioned cases, including the cold case of Thelma's brother’s death, merely by thinking about them in his spare time.

    Bottom line: Unless you’re hopelessly addicted to this series, this book is really a waste of time.

    3½ Stars.  Add 2 stars if you read this series for the small-town folksiness, and don’t give a hoot about whatever crimes are committed.  At least you’ll get something positive out of the book.

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