A rash of petty thefts threatens the holiday spirit. Qwilleran decides to do some surreptitious investigating. With the help of Koko & Yum Yum, he endeavors to bring the right people to justice before the small town is destroyed by a crime wave
Nothing is sacred in this latest installment of the trials and tribulations of life in Moose County, "400 miles north of everywhere," as locals face a green Christmas, an outbreak of petty larceny and a tacky new resident. As the holidays approach, someone has taken to stealing small articles of apparently little value gloves, sunglasses, a bag of old clothes, an antique doll. But these seem minor distractions from larger matters, like the new banker, Willard Carmichael, and his wife, Danielle, a flashy young woman with big hair who teeters on spiked heels as she flirts with an uncooperative newspaper columnist, Qwilleran, seen last in The Cat Who Said Cheese (1996). Willard fits right in, devoting himself to restoring Pleasant Street's Victorian homes with the help of Danielle's cousin, Carter Lee James, a preservation consultant. Just after Christmas, Willard is killed in a mugging in Detroit; then a local boy is arrested for the petty thefts and an old friend becomes engaged to James, all events that raise Qwill's suspicions and inspire strange behavior in his sleuthing cats, Koko and Yum Yum. Cranky and sometimes acerbic, Qwill fights off the sentimentality of the season while investigating the world of historically correct renovations. By springtime, with the help of Koko in particular, he brings a murderer and thief to justice in an accomplished mystery that is as smooth as the season's first snowfall. Mystery Guild and Readers Digest Condensed Book selection; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternate. (Feb.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 01, 1998
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Excerpt from The Cat Who Tailed a Thief by Lilian Jackson Braun
It was a strange winter in Moose County, 400 miles north of everywhere. First, there was disagreement about the long-range weather forecast. The weatherman at the local radio station predicted a winter of zero temperature, daily snow, minus-sixty windchill, and paralyzing blizzards -- in other words: normal. On the other hand, farmers and woodsmen who observed the behavior of the fuzzy caterpillars insisted the winter would be mild. Bad news!
No one wanted a mild winter. Merchants had invested in large inventories of snowblowers, antifreeze, snowshoes, and long johns. The farmers themselves needed a heavy snow cover to ensure a good summer crop. Dogsledders and icefishermen stood to lose a whole season of wholesome outdoor sport. As for the First Annual Ice Festival, it was doomed. All that -- plus the unthinkable possibility of a green Christmas!
Throughout November, traditionally a month of natural disasters, the weather was disappointingly good, and the natives cursed the fuzzy caterpillars. Then. . . suddenly, in mid-December, temperatures plummeted and a few inches of no-melt snow started to fall every day. In downtown Pickax, the county seat, the Department of Public Works plows threw up the usual eight-foot walls of snow along curbs and around parking lots. Young people did their Christmas shopping on cross-country skis, and sleigh bells could be heard on Main Street. Best of all, the schools closed twice during the month because of blizzard conditions.
The weather was only the first strange happening of the winter, however. In late December, an outbreak of petty larceny dampened the holiday spirit in Pickax. Trivial items began to disappear from cars and public places, prompting the local newspaper to run an editorial:
Play Safe! Lock Up! Be Alert!