Book Review: The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern

The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern
Book #2
by Lilian Jackson Braun

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Cozy mystery

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Former crime reporter Jim Qwilleran is ready to get off the art beat, though he doesn’t expect to move on to interior design. But the work isn’t boring, when the first subject of the newspaper’s new interior design magazine is burglarized, and there’s even a death involved. And it won’t be the last death in the interior design world.

The first full adventure of Koko and Qwill has a lot of charm, as Qwill takes to cat ownership with aplomb. Koko’s antics lead Qwill to question whether the cat is somehow psychic or it’s all just a big coincidence. The interactions between man and cat are always my favorite thing about the books in this series. And now we have Yum Yum to add to the fun in future books.

The mystery itself was better done than the first book, in my opinion. I was more interested in it and felt I had a chance of solving it. I didn’t, not really, but there was at least one crime I had pretty much figured out correctly.

In my review for the first book, I mentioned the male chauvinism, which is still present in this book, but not as heartily. Unless you count Odd Bunsen, a married father of six, who makes somewhat suggestive comments about other women all throughout this book. But hey, at least he only talks about looking, and nothing more…a distinction I’m sure his wife would appreciate.

Overall, it was a fun read, and I would recommend this book for fans of the classic whodunit & cozy mystery genres.

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Book Review: The Dandelion Killer

The Dandelion Killer
by Wanda Luttrell

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian mystery

Dandelion

When a town socialite is murdered and a 55-year-old mentally handicapped man is found with her dandelion pin, the police take him in for questioning, only for him to escape their grasp. It’s up to his best friend and sister-in-law of the victim, Elayna Evans, to try to prove his innocence before the police re-capture him. She has problems of her own, though, as someone seems to think the victim left something with Elayna before she died. Maybe she’d be wise to stay away from the investigation, but Elayna can’t leave her friend’s fate in the hands of the police…or the real killer.

I enjoyed this book overall. I think my favorite thing was the characterization of Jayboy, the mentally handicapped man. The mystery took some interesting turns, though there was a good deal of predictability in it too. I liked the added pressure of the rising river that threatened to flood the town.

The chapters generally alternated between Elayna’s POV and Jayboy’s POV (always 3rd-person though). Watching Jayboy’s progression through being suspected of murder, then escaping, and then where he goes from there, which I won’t say, was one of the more engaging things about the book. The repetition that I noticed in the author’s style was was prevalent throughout these parts too, but seemed a lot more natural.

Elayna herself was all right as a main character, but she began to grate on me a little. For one thing, there was the repetition I mentioned, which came out a lot in her thoughts about the murder and about her absentee husband (who had taken off one day and was gone for 10 years, but she refused to move on). She also was a bit too wishy-washy for my taste.

There’s a character introduced part way through the book who was another favorite of mine. His story has a unique angle to it, if not a little awkward and coincidental. He’s the main place that the Christianity comes into this book, though to be honest, I don’t know why he had to be a pastor. It seems pretty common in these kinds of books, but it’s not like everyone who has a strong faith has to be a pastor. I did find it weird that his full name was pretty much always used, both in narration and in dialog.

As for the mystery itself, I don’t want to be too specific about the ways that it was predictable, because that would give away a lot of the ending from early on. But it was almost like the author tried to make it less predictable by setting up the narration in a way that we get used to, and then changing it on us without us realizing it. However, I don’t know if that was intentional, or just something I read into it. And there’s a New Age angle that feels so against the tone of the book, and I think it’s mostly there as a vehicle for the Christianity.

One of my favorite things about the book was this one scene in a restaurant that was newly opened by the pastor mentioned above, where there was a guy singing a song that was described but not named. From the description, I knew the song was “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” by Wayne Watson, which is a favorite of mine. So that was pretty cool. Overall, I’m glad I read it (though it wasn’t the first time–I was given this book by a sibling and read it a few times after I got it, but that was at least 15 years ago), and would recommend it to people who enjoy Christian mystery books.

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Book Review: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards
Book #1
by Lilian Jackson Braun

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Cozy mystery

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Jim Qwilleran is working his way back into the newspaper world after some personal struggles led to a dark time for him. He’s given the art beat, which has him completely out of his element, but at least it’s work. After meeting various members of the local art community, the death of one of those people has Qwilleran’s large mustache quivering. Accompanied by his landlord’s highly intelligent and quirky Siamese cat, Qwill does a little investigating while still reporting the news.

This first book in a 29-book-long series takes a while to really get started. Qwill is new in the area and has a lot of people to meet, and so do we. The murder comes quite a ways into the book, but it’s not like everything before that is pointless and boring. It’s a little slower than I might have liked, yes, but since I know this is going to be a murder-mystery, I’m guessing who the victim will be up until the point that someone dies (I was wrong, by the way…and then I was right). There were some downsides, especially near the end, but overall, I enjoyed the book.

I loved the way Qwill and Koko (the cat) began their relationship, how Koko was introduced by his owner, and Koko’s little visits to Qwill. Having read some of this series years ago, I knew that in every book, Koko has a new quirk, usually related to the title, that is somehow involved in the solving of the murder. This one was no different, though I felt it wasn’t as involved as I remember. Maybe that’s also due to it being the first book in the series, or maybe I’m over-selling it in my remembrance. Either way, it was still fun.

One downside is that one of the common elements of cozy mysteries, the way clues to the mystery are usually sprinkled into the story enough that the discerning reader could solve it before the detective, was not there in this book. I don’t think there was any real way to figure out who did it before it was suddenly revealed at the end. Though this book was published in 1966, and I doubt “cozy mysteries” were really a thing…Braun probably didn’t know she was supposed to follow a formula. It doesn’t bother me personally, as I’ve never been all that great at solving mysteries before being given the answer anyway.

Also being written in the 60s, there’s a definite vein of male chauvinism throughout the book. At first I thought it was strange, considering the female author, but the truth is, this is probably exactly what she was seeing back then.

As a stand-alone mystery, this book is lacking a bit. As the beginning to a series, it shows a lot of promise. I personally can’t wait to see what Koko (soon to be joined by another Siamese, but I can’t remember which book) gets up to in the future. At this time, I would recommend this book for fans of the classic whodunit & cozy mystery genres.

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