Jim & his cats have some sleuthing to do when a newly opened art center is broken into & an elderly woman dies in a suspicious fire
Koko is once again cat of the hour in this barely puzzling 20th entry in the series featuring former newsman Jim Qwilleran and his sleuthing Siamese cat companions (The Cat Who Tailed a Thief, 1997, was the 19th). Although most residents of Pickax City are enthralled by its new art museum, some movers and shakers are less than happy with the unsightly homestead across the road from it. Qwill interviews the garrulous woman who lives there and is enchanted with her plainspoken manner. But very soon she dies in a fire that destroys her home; at just about the same time, someone breaks into the museum and steals some paintings. Qwill quietly orchestrates a large funeral for the woman. Community happenings and his personal life occupy much of Qwill's time as he coordinates the town spelling bee, which is being promoted as an athletic event, observes the strange behavior of a young woman who paints pictures of butterflies and battles bouts of jealousy as his lady love, librarian Polly, gets her portrait painted by an affable artist. It's up to the prescient Koko and his confrere Yum Yum to nudge Qwill into uncovering the town's more mysterious goings-on. Cat and Qwilleran fans will welcome this benign series addition, which chronicles the ongoing relationships of the series characters with only a whisker's twitch of crime solving. (Feb.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 01, 1999
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Excerpt from The Cat Who Sang for the Birds by Lilian Jackson Braun
Following an unseasonable thaw and disastrous flooding, spring came early to Moose County, 400 miles north of everywhere. In Pickax City, the county seat, flowerboxes on Main Street were blooming in April, birds were singing in Park Circle, mosquitoes were hatching in the bogs, and strangers were beginning to appear in the campgrounds and on the streets of downtown.
One afternoon in late May, a brown van pulled into a parking lot alongside a small green sedan, and a man wearing a black jersey slipped out of the driver's seat. He glanced furtively to the left and right, and, leaving the motor running, he opened the tailgate. Then he unlocked the trunk of the sedan and quickly transferred something from his vehicle to the other, after which he lost no time in driving away.
An out-of-towner, witnessing the surreptitious maneuver, might have described him as a Caucasian male, middle-aged, about six feet two, with slightly graying hair and an enormous pepper-and-salt moustache. On the other hand, any resident of Pickax (population 3,000) would have recognized him immediately. He was James Mackintosh Qwilleran, columnist for the Moose County Something and -- by a fluke of fate -- the richest man in northeast central United States. He had reason to be furtive about the parking-lot caper. In Pickax, everyone knew everyone's business and discussed it freely on the phone, on street corners, and in the coffee shops. Individuals would say:
"It's nice that Polly Duncan got herself such a rich boyfriend. She's been a widow for a heck of a long time."
"That green sedan she drives -- he gave it to her for a birthday present. Wonder what she gave him."