Monday, February 3, 2020

Book review: The Cat Who Turned On and Off by Lilian Jackson Braun

The Cat Who Turned On and Off (Cat Who..., #3)

The Cat Who Turned On and Off (Cat Who #3)
Author:  Lilian Jackson Braun
Publisher:  Headline (1968)
265 pgs

"He turned up the collar of his tweed overcoat - awkwardly, with one hand - and tried to jam his porkpie hat closer to his ears.  His left hand was plunged deep in his coat pocket and held stiffly there.  Otherwise there was nothing remarkable about the man except the luxuriance of his moustache - and his sobriety."

Jim Qwilleran, a newspaper reporter, has been living at Medford Manor, a third-rate hotel, for several months.  Still employed by the Daily Fluxion, he is looking for a way to earn some extra cash.  When he receives a memo reminding him of the annual writing competition at the Fluxion, he sets out to write something prizeworthy.  He used to be a crime writer, but has recently been put on general assignment.  He remembers the cab driver mentioning something about a run down area of town called Junktown.  His crime writer brain gets to work imagining the great story he could write about drug dealers and drug addicts.  Before long he is set straight on why the area is called Junktown.  It is full of antique stores and junk shops.  Qwilleran hates antique stores.  But his boss thinks a story about Junktown would be fantastic.  So, Qwilleran has no choice but to start investigating for the story.

As he meets the proprietors of the antique shops, he discovers some interesting characters.  He also discovers that one of the proprietors recently died.  The death was ruled an accident, but it sounds suspicious to Qwilleran.  He automatically goes into investigation mode.  As he is asking questions, he discovers one of the shops has an apartment for rent.  He decides to take the apartment and moves in along with his two cats, Koko and Yum Yum.  Will he be able to discover what happened to the dead proprietor?  Is it just a waste of his time?  More importantly, will he be able to write a prizeworthy story?

This is the third book in the Cat Who series.  It can be read without reading the first two books.  I always enjoy spending time with Qwilleran and the cats.  

"There was something about the man's moustache that convinced people of his sincerity.  Other moustaches might be villainous or supercilious or pathetic, but the outcropping on Qwilleran's upper lip inspired trust."

He lives a pretty simple life, but always seems to meet interesting people.  The characters in this story are no exception.  There is the mysterious Mary Duckworth, who is the daughter of a millionaire, but doesn't want to make her real identity known.  There are the Copps, who own the shop that Qwilleran's apartment is above.  Mrs. Copp is overly kind to him, and Mr. Copp is cantankerous, but they seem to get along.  Then there is Bob, who lives next to Qwilleran, and speaks like an actor in a Shakespeare play.  Then there are Koko and Yum Yum, Qwilleran's beloved Siamese cats, who are often up to mischief.   Qwilleran has a gift for getting people to open up to him.  As they do, he is able to unravel the tangled threads of information and solve a few mysteries, leaving the book to end on a satisfying note.  

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