Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Cat Who Blew the Whistle by Lilian Jackson Braun: A review


Koko and Yum Yum, the mystery-solving Siamese (well, Koko is anyway) are featured in this 18th in The Cat Who... series. There have been many other entries in the series since then and it has many devoted fans. I don't really count myself among them, although I have read a few of the books over the years. This book, however, was the August selection of my local Mystery Book Club and so I applied myself to reading it.

It was a quick read, very light in tone, nothing to tax the brain. Jim Qwilleran, caretaker of the Siamese and a local newspaper columnist, also the richest man in his part of the world as we are reminded several times, is on the case of the missing millionaire, the thoroughly unlikable Floyd Trevelyan. Trevelyan was a financier who has disappeared at a time when millions of investors' dollars have also disappeared from his credit union. The two disappearances seem strangely linked.

We learn that Trevelyan was a bully who was a tyrant to his family. He was a womanizer who left his disabled wife at home and refused to get her the expensive medical care that might have cured her disease. He had two children, a son and a daughter, neither of whom had any cause to love him.

Trevelyan's passion was trains. He had recently bought and restored a historic steam locomotive which he was hoping to make an attraction in Moose County. Plus, he had an elaborate model train set-up in the basement of his house.

At the same time that Trevelyan and the millions disappeared, his secretary (or was she his assistant or...?) disappeared also. People draw their logical conclusions, but Qwilleran is not so sure. More importantly, Koko knows better, and he leaves clues all over the converted barn he shares with Yum Yum and Qwilleran trying to lead his dense human to the truth.

Anyone who has ever spent any time with Siamese, or with any cats for that matter, can appreciate the nuances of personality that Braun gives her furry protagonists. If only she could give some of her human characters a few nuances, but they are placid, predictable, and mostly downright boring. And the place names! Sawdust City. Pickax. There's a town called Brrr? Really? And the name of the local newspaper that Qwilleran works for is called the Moose County Something. They didn't want to use another newspaper's name and they couldn't think of anything new so they just called it the... Yeah. These cutesy kinds of touches just set my teeth on edge.

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