When I was growing up, I’d often spend the night at my grandmother’s house on the weekends. There were plenty of benefits to this: strawberry ice cream was served nightly at 7pm, there was a cherry tree in the back yard, the guest room featured a typewriter concealed within a roll-top desk, as well as a heated waterbed…and plenty of books to read.
A large portion of these books were from The Cat Who series, Lillian Jackson Braun’s cosy mystery series about a mustachioed journalist named Jim Qwilleran, who solves mysteries with his two Siamese cats. They always had a fond place in my dusty memories, so imagine my delight when a tall stack of them were for sale at the local library for 20p a pop! I bought them all, of course.
As it’s a lengthy series of fairly cookie-cutter books, I’ll be reviewing the series as a whole.
The books are quick and very readable, making for light reading or a good palate cleanser. The antics of Koko and Yum Yum are sure to delight readers of all ages, and prove that cats have always been cats. Qwilleran’s upbeat yet dogged personality is endearing, and he’s refreshingly human, frequently making mistakes and suffering small clumsy injuries. It’s also fun to read books written and set in times before the digital revolution. I guess these are vintage mysteries now?
The protagonist also doesn’t actively seek out the nefarious deeds he ends up uncovering. It’s fun to watch him attempt to just enjoy journalism, but seek out justice when something seems a little too easy.
I can understand how this flew over my head when I initially read these books as a child, but the series has a lot of product-of-its-time style sexism. Another thing I didn’t remember from my first pass through this series is the constant references to Qwilleran’s mustache. Its tendency to tingle like a Spidey Sense in a world otherwise devoid of magic or supernatural goings on took me out of the narrative each time, as did the constant stroking and touching and general hyperawareness he had for it. Maybe I’m just showing my ignorance. Facial-haired fellows, a question for you: how many times a day do you think about your mustache? It’s for research.
While they’re not groundbreaking in any way, even at the time, and haven’t aged particularly well in other ways, they’re still fairly enjoyable little reads. Their brevity and lighthearted approach, as well as gentler setting, can prove an easy salve for a frantic, sometimes cruel world. I’m not as heavily invested in them as I was when I was a child, but I do still recommend them.