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Book Reviews

“The Cat Who Saw Red” by Lilian Jackson Braun

The Cat Who Saw Red is available at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.ca.

The Cat Who Saw RedThe Cat Who Saw Red is arguably the best novel in the “Cat Who…” series, perhaps because in this story, Qwilleran is at his most vulnerable. He has just won prize money of $1000, which he sorely needs considering his penniless state when he decided to try for the prize. He has moved once again, this time to an apartment house over a pottery. His new landlord is a dignified lawyer who would rather spend his time cooking gourmet meals than attending to clients’ legal matters. We will hear more of Robert (Mickey) Maus in future “Cat Who…” novels.

To add to his dismay, Jim receives bad news from the doctor: lose some weight. The doctor has given him a list of food items that are forbidden on his diet, which includes almost everything worth eating. To add insult to injury, his boss assigns him to a new beat–reviewing gourmet restaurants–with the awful byline title of “Prandial Musings”. For a while, he even loses his cats. This is not an upbeat time for Jim.

At Maus House, he runs into Joy, who is obviously the love of his life. The fact that she disappeared without notice and is now married to a jerk does not seem to dampen his ardor at their reunion. We learn that even his marriage to Miriam was a sham precipitated by the fact that her looks and actions reminded Jim of Joy. Unfortunately, like Joy, Miriam was also an ambitious but mentally unstable career woman, who, also like Joy, deserts him. The second desertion led him to look for comfort at the bottom of a bottle. Now Miriam is in a mental hospital, and the only time he hears from her family is when they need money. Notwithstanding his own precarious financial situation, he loans Joy the $750 she says she needs it to get a divorce. Check in hand, Joy disappears again.

His only friend, it seems, is Rosemary Whiting an attractive and young-looking grandmother who is everything that Joy was not. Surprisingly Rosemary will return in another novel.

The Cat Who Saw Red was written only months after The Cat Who Turned On and Off but was not published for some time. In the late 60′s publishers wanted more edgy mysteries, with more sex, violence and foul language. The “Cat Who…” novels didn’t fit the profile. Thus, the manuscript sat for 18 years until Ms. Braun decided to bring it out of hiding and try again. After its publication we have been treated to one or two “Cat Who…” novels per year.

The Cat Who Saw Red is book #4 in the series and was written in 1986.

Discussion

One Response to ““The Cat Who Saw Red” by Lilian Jackson Braun”

  1. I am rereading “Saw Red” and again am impressed with how good it is. I wanted to skip “Red” this time around, because the mystery becomes too personal for Jim, and the ending too painful. Not only does Qwill have to deal with Joy’s disappearance, but also has cause to grieve when Mrs. Marron, the housekeeper tells him the cats are dead and have been carted off to the sanitation department. His rewarding reunion with the cats, however, is worth the pain, and the wonderful characters in this novel, where we meet Hixie Rice, Rosemary Whiting and Robert Maus, make it a must-read.

    Posted by Joyce McDonald | April 15, 2012, 5:10 pm

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