The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun was on display in my local library. It caught my eye both by its title and its cover. I hadn’t come across any of the “Cat” books before, although I’ve since discovered that there are a lot of them. I like “whodunnits” and cats so I thought it might be entertaining.
Then I read that Zetor had found it “disappointing”, which put me off a bit. I can see what she means. It is rather slow – nearly halfway through the book before the murder – and no the cat can’t read and is as she says pretty average for a feline. But I liked it.
Briefly the book is about Joe Qwilleran, a newspaper reporter assigned to be an art writer, even though he knows little about art. There is a feud between the paper’s art critic, George Bonifield Mountclemens III, and local artists and when Earl Lambreth, who runs the art gallery is found murdered there are plenty of suspects. Qwilleran who used to be a crime reporter gets involved.
I liked the slowness of it, the humour and above all Koko, the Siamese cat. The cover disappointingly shows a black cat not the beautiful Siamese with a “voice like an ambulance siren” and when Qwilleran first meets him he sees him in bright daylight which
… emphasized the luster of the pale fur, the richness of the dark brown face and ears, the uncanny blue of the eyes. Long brown legs, straight and slender, were deflected at the ends to make dainty feet, and the bold whiskers glinted with the prismatic colors of the rainbow.
Later on in the book, when Koko is frolicking on the staircase his
… slender legs and tiny feet looking like long-stemmed musical notes were playing tunes up and down the red-carpeted stairs.
I found the art snobbery amusing. For example, an exhibition of a local artist’s watercolours of sailboats is described by Mountclemens by detailing the fine craftsmanship of the picture frames, and dismissing the paintings by saying that they “do not detract from the excellence of the moldings.”
What I didn’t like was the ending, with the introduction of a new character at such a late stage; most disappointing. Will I read any more of The Cat Who … books? Maybe, if I find them in the library, but I won’t be buying them.