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The Cat Who Smelled a Rat Hardcover – January 29, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 108 customer reviews
Book 23 of 29 in the Cat Who... Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Moose County journalist and philanthropist James Qwilleran, better known to fans of Lilian Jackson Braun's evergreen series of feline-inspired thrillers as the owner of a couple of remarkably prescient Siamese cats named Koko and Yum Yum, is comfortably ensconced in his winter residence in Pickax at the beginning of The Cat Who Smelled a Rat. But he and the other citizens start hoping for snow when a series of arson fires threaten their safety as well as the historically significant shafthouses that sit atop the long-closed mine sites scattered throughout the county.

Qwilleran and his pets take quite a while to connect the fires with the death of a local builder in a seemingly unrelated accident. But his leisurely jaunt to the conclusion of this lightly plotted adventure leaves plenty of room for the author to do what she does best, which is sketching the picaresque characters who people Pickax and dwelling on the small-town charms of a place where everybody knows everything about everybody. The cats are quicker to solve a crime than the local constabulary. Only Koko could find the clues hidden in an antique pitcher and an old-fashioned glove box, and only a cat lover could consider this a mystery or even a romance. There's no suspense, very little drama, hardly any blood, and not even a hint of sex between Qwilleran and his lady. But Braun's fans are legion, so we know she must be doing something right. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

The 23rd entry in Braun's Cat Who... series (The Cat Who Robbed a Bank; The Cat Who Saw Stars; etc.) testifies to the amazing popularity of mysteries featuring cats. Once again philanthropist-journalist Jim Qwilleran, columnist for the Something, the local newspaper of Pickax City in Moose County, turns for crime-solving help to his insightful and sensitive Siamese sleuths, Koko and Yum Yum. It's late October and the residents of Pickax are praying for the Big One, the annual blizzard that ushers in the long winter. This year it is much needed since the extreme drought conditions have made the area a virtual tinderbox. After several fires break out, volunteers form the Citizens' Fire Watch to protect the historic shafthouses, all that remain of the county's once prosperous mines. Anxiety increases as more fires occur and a volunteer is shot dead at one of the shafthouses. When the president of the local curling club dies from a fall, Qwilleran, with a twitch of his moustache and an ear-splitting shriek from Koko, joins his feline assistants to find the rat responsible before snow flies. Regular fans will enjoy being back with old friends and will be intrigued by the eccentric new additions to Pickax. The complexities of small-town life and the feline antics portrayed with Braun's apt wit and humor combine with a puzzling mystery to make for a most welcome addition to the series. (Feb. 5) Forecast: With a solid bestseller track record for this series, this entry is sure to claw its way up the lists. British rights have been sold to Headline.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cat Who... (Book 23)
  • Hardcover: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam; 1st edition (January 29, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399146652
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399146657
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #964,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was astounded when, in reading the covers of Lilian Braun's latest episode in her tales of James Qwilleran that "The Cat Who Smelled a Rat" was Volume 23. I went to her shelf and, sure enough, I had read them all. While they really are mystery stories, I don't really read them for that. Rather, over the history of the series, I have become addicted to life in the far north town of Pickaxe.
I love wandering through the town with Qwilleran, meeting the many quirky characters, sharing in the gossip, reading Qwill's columns over his shoulder and, above all, interpreting the mystic messages of Koko the detective cat. As, I'm quite sure, will any mystery lover who needs a break from the noir fiction that makes up so much of modern mystery writing.
This time Pickaxe is in the throes of an autumn drought, trying to prevent brush fires and waiting impatiently for 'The Big One', the first big snowstorm of winter. When a volunteer fire watcher is murdered at one of Moose County's famous mine shafthouses the mystery begins. Be prepared for an Haiku contest, an elopement, curling and many delicious meals consumed at Pickaxe's seemingly inexhaustable supply of restaurants and inns.
Of course, the real heroes of all Braun's stories are Koko and Yum Yum, Qwill's faithful Siamese sidekicks. Koko, by virtue of superior intelligence and wit, works dilligently to provide Qwilleran with the clues needs to discover the villain and reveal his nefarious scheme. Koko limited to growls and 'Yows' resorts to plant destruction, apple hockey and general chaos in order to keep Qwill on track.
If you've been following this series for as long as I have you will need no encouragement to read this new volume. For those of you who have never travelled to Pickaxe before, prepare for a lot of fun - all 23 volumes are well worth reading!!
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books in the series. But it shouldn't be the first one you read. It doesn't give a lot of background information for the first time reader to understand what is going on in the novel. All in all it was one of her best yet. Even with the help of the two cats I had no idea what was going on until the very end. If you are a fan of the series you should definitely buy this book. But if you have never read a "Cat Who" book before this isn't for you. Buy an earlier novel in the series; then buy this one.
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Format: Audio Cassette
Another delightful mystery by Lilian Jackson Braun...Qwilleran is able to solve the mystery with the help of Koko, his Siamese cat. A famous rare bookstore located in Pick Ax unexpectedly burns to the ground and the owner is killed. Although he always joked about it, the owner leaves the bookstore to Qwilleran in his will. Qwilleran is thoroughly surprised and plans to build a memorial to him in the town library. Throughout the story, Qwilleran cannot believe that the fire was an accident. Koko confirms his suspicions by leaving a series of cat-like clues. Koko eventually leads him to the suspect after he smells-out the biggest clue.
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By A Customer on March 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read and own all the books in this series and one of the things that I love about it is that you are guaranteed a no sex/no blood/no gore/no violence read. I think this is a good thing.
However, there is too much of a good thing. I read this book and kept waiting for it to take off. It felt like that the story meandered and Qwill would just go to the store and find a clue, go to the mailbox and find a clue, go to the bathroom and find a clue. There was no sense, for me, of there being a search or quest for the truth. It was as if the clues and information was falling off a tree at just the right moment.
Also, the character of Polly is really getting on my nerves. The Polly is jealous/Qwill baits her/she gets mad and goes home/they make up later plot device of character development has really gotten old. It seemed formulaic. All this namby pamby fumbling around between Qwill and Polly needs to stop and they needs to move their relationship forward somehow. In one of the earlier books, Polly is threatened by an attacker or has a heart attack and Qwill rushed to her side. At least they were in touch with their feelings and did something about it. If Qwill is dissatisfied with his relationship with Polly then he should change it. This is fiction, after all.
The book just never engaged for me. I found myself wishing for a hurricane or the Big One to come along and stir these people up.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've just reread "The Cat Who Smelled a Rat." In it, Jim Qwilleran is still in fine mettle. This mystery, No. 23 in the "Cat Who" series, is the last one most fans will enjoy. In this book, Qwill still remembers small details from previous novels. He's still interested in the mysteries around him, and he does some active snooping around. He's still a bit of the Lothario despite himself. And he still has faith in Koko's awesome powers.

Starting with the next book, the mystery gets solved almost by accident. Qwill becomes a parody of himself, and the novels start to get worse and worse. Eventually, the books begin to get facts wrong and characters begin to act, well, out of character or just inexplicably drop out of sight. (The latter must be hard to do in a small town 400 miles north of anywhere.) Whether Lilian Jackson Braun, now approaching 90, has lost her touch, or whether they're being ghost-written, I leave to you to judge. But the books become just dreadful.

I recommend that readers go out on a high note and stop after No. 23. It's been a good run.
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