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The colorful Casablance apartment building is in danger of demolition--but not if Jim Qwilleran can help it. He's determined to restore the building to its original grandeur. So he moves in with Koko and Yum Yum--and discovers that the Casablanca is steeped in history...and mystery. In Qwill's very apartment, a glamorous art dealer met an untimely fate, and the veteran journalist and his crime-solving cats are about to reach new heights in detection as the evidence builds up...and the Casablanca threatens to crumble down around them!
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Lilian Jackson Braun composed her first poem at the age of two. She began writing her Cat Who... detective series when one of her own Siamese cats mysteriously fell to its death from her apartment block. Since then over twenty Cat Who... novels have been published, all featuring the very talented Koko and Yum Yum, Siamese cats with a bent for detection. She and her husband, Earl, live in the mountains of North Carolina.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Jove titles by Lilian Jackson Braun
THE CAT WHO COULD READ BACKWARDS
THE CAT WHO ATE DANISH MODERN
THE CAT WHO TURNED ON AND OFF
THE CAT WHO SAW RED
THE CAT WHO PLAYED BRAHMS
THE CAT WHO PLAYED POST OFFICE
THE CAT WHO KNEW SHAKESPEARE
THE CAT WHO SNIFFED GLUE
THE CAT WHO WENT UNDERGROUND
THE CAT WHO TALKED TO GHOSTS
THE CAT WHO LIVED HIGH
THE CAT WHO KNEW A CARDINAL
THE CAT WHO MOVED A MOUNTAIN
THE CAT WHO WASN’T THERE
THE CAT WHO WENT INTO THE CLOSET
THE CAT WHO CAME TO BREAKFAST
THE CAT WHO BLEW THE WHISTLE
THE CAT WHO SAID CHEESE
THE CAT WHO TAILED A THIEF
THE CAT WHO SANG FOR THE BIRDS
THE CAT WHO SAW STARS
THE CAT WHO HAD 14 TALES
(short story collection)
THE CAT WHO ROBBED A BANK
in hardcover from G.P. Putnam’s Sons
THE NEWS THAT reached Pickax City early on that cold November morning sent a deathly chill through the small northern community. The Pickax police chief, Andrew Brodie, was the first to hear about the car crash. It had occurred four hundred miles to the south, in the perilous urban area that locals called Down Below. The metropolitan police appealed to Brodie for assistance in locating the next of kin.
The victim, they said, had been driving through the heart of the city on a four-lane freeway when the occupants of a passing car, according to witnesses, fired shots at him, causing him to lose control of his vehicle, which crashed into a concrete abutment and burned. The driver’s body was consumed by the flames, but through the license plates the registration had been traced to James Qwilleran, fifty-two, of Pickax City.
Brodie smashed his leathery fist down on the desk, and his face contorted in grief and anger. “I warned him! I warned him!” he shouted.
Qwilleran had no living relatives; a phone call to his attorney confirmed that fact. His family consisted of two Siamese cats, but his extended family included the entire population of Moose County. The genial personality and quirky philosophy of the retired journalist endeared “Mr. Q” to everyone. The column he wrote for the local newspaper had won him a host of admirers. His luxuriant moustache and drooping eyelids and graying temples were considered sexually attractive by women of all ages. And the fact that he was the richest bachelor in three counties and an unbridled philanthropist made him a civic treasure.
Brodie immediately called Arch Riker, Qwilleran’s lifelong friend and current publisher of the Moose County newspaper. “Dammit! I warned him about that jungle!” the chief shouted into the phone. “He’s been living up here for three years, and he forgot that life Down Below is like Russian roulette!”
Shocked and searching for something to say, Riker mumbled soberly, “Qwill knew all about that. Before moving up here he lived in cities for fifty years. He and I grew up in Chicago.”
“Things have changed since then,” Brodie snapped. “God! Do you know what this means?”
The fact was that Qwilleran had inherited vast wealth from the Klingenschoen estate—on one condition: He must live in Moose County for five years. Otherwise, the Klingenschoen millions—or billions—would go to the alternate heirs out of state.
Riker listened glumly to Brodie’s tirade and then phoned Polly Duncan, the woman in Qwilleran’s life, who was prostrated by the news. He himself made immediate plans to fly down to the city. By the time the publisher had notified his own news desk and the local radio station, the telephone lines were spluttering with the bad tidings, and Moose County was caught up in a frenzy of horror and grief. Thousands would miss Qwilleran’s column on page two of the newspaper. Hundreds would miss the sight of Mr. Q riding his bicycle on country roads and walking about downtown Pickax with a long stride and a sober expression, answering their greetings with a courteous salute. And everyone realized the community would now lose scholarships, grants, and interest-free loans. Why, they asked each other, had he been so rash as to venture Down Below? Only one person thought to worry about the Siamese. His part-time secretary, Lori Bamba, cried, “What will happen to Koko and Yum Yum?”
There were cats galore in Moose County—barn mousers, feral cats, and pampered pets—yet none so pampered as the two thoroughbreds who lived with Qwilleran, and none quite so remarkable as Kao K’o Kung, whose everyday name was Koko. With his noble whiskers, aristocratic ears, sensitive nose, and inscrutable gaze Koko could see the invisible, hear the inaudible, and sense the unknowable. His companion, Yum Yum, was a charmer who captivated Qwilleran with shameless wiles, reaching out a paw to touch his moustache while squeezing her eyes and purring throatily. They were a handsome pair—fawn-furred, with seal-brown extremities and mesmerizing blue eyes. What would happen to them now? Where were they? Would anyone feed them?
Then came the gripping question: Were they still alive? Had they been in the car when it burned?
About two weeks before the metropolitan police called Brodie with the fateful news, Qwilleran and his two feline companions were spending a quiet evening at home in Moose County—the man, a husky six feet two, sprawled in the second-best easy chair with nothing much on his mind; the cats lounging on the best chair, as was their due, meditating and looking exquisite. When the raucous bell of the telephone disturbed the domestic peace, Qwilleran reluctantly hoisted himself to his feet and went to the phone in the adjoining room. It was a long-distance call from Down Below.
He heard an unfamiliar voice say, “Hello, Mr. Qwilleran. You’ll never guess who this is! . . . Amberina, from the Three Weird Sisters in Junktown! Do you remember me?”
“Of course I remember you,” he said diplomatically, at the same time thinking fast. The three women had an antique shop, but which of the sisters was Amberina? The giddy young blond or the man-crazy redhead or the unimpressive brunette? “How’s everything Down Below?” he asked. “I haven’t been there for quite a while—three years, as a matter of fact.”
“You’d never recognize Junktown,” she replied. “We’re being gentrified, like they say. People are buying the old townhouses and fixing them up, and we’re getting some first-class restaurants and antique shops.”
“Do you still have your shop?”
“No, we gave it up. Ivrene finished art school and got a job in Chicago. Cluthra married money—wouldn’t you know?—and moved to Texas. And I’m working for an auction house. From what I hear, Mr. Qwilleran, your life has changed, too, with the inheritance and everything.”
“Much to my surprise, yes . . . By the way, did you hear about Iris Cobb?”
“Gosh, were we ever shocked! When she was in Junktown she was such a live wire.”
“Does Mary Duckworth still have the Blue Dragon?”
“She sure does! It’s the best antique shop on the street—the most expensive, that is. Robert Maus has opened a classy restaurant, and Charlotte Roop is his manager. You know both of them, I think.”
Why, Qwilleran thought, is this woman calling me after three years? His momentary silence brought her to the point.
Amberina said, “Mary wanted me to call you because she’s going out of town. She has something she’d like to suggest to you.”
“Well, fire away!”
“Do you know the big old white apartment building called the Casablanca? It’s sort of rundown, but it’s a landmark.”
“I vaguely remember it.”
“It’s a tall building between Junktown and the reclaimed area where they’re putting up the new office towers and condos.”
“Yes, now I know the one you mean,” he said.
“Well, to make a long story short, some developers want to tear it down, which would be a crime! That building is really built! And it has a lot of history. Junktown has formed a task force called SOCK—Save Our Casablanca Kommittee—spelled with a K, you know.”
“Does SOCK have any clout?” Qwilleran quipped.
“Not really. That’s why we’re calling you.”
“What’s the proposition?”
She drew a deep breath. “The Casablanca used to be the best address in town. SOCK wants you to buy it and restore it . . . There! I said it! It wasn’t easy.”
It was Qwilleran’s turn to take a deep breath. “Now wait a minute, Amberina. Let me straighten you out. I’m no financier, and I don’t get involved in business ventures. Nothing is further from my mind. In fact, I’ve turned my inheritance over to the Klingenschoen Memorial Fund. I have nothing to do with it.” Actually he made suggestions to the Fund, but he saw no need to mention that.
“We all remember what you did for Junktown when you wrote for the Daily Fluxion, Mr. Qwilleran. Your series of articles in the paper really woke us up and started our comeback.”
He stroked his moustache as he remembered his memorable winter in that slummy part of town. “I admit my Junktown experience whetted my interest in preservation,” he said, “and theoretically I endorse your cause, although I’m in no position to know whether it’s feasible.”
“Oh, but you should see the Casablanca!” she said with enthusiasm. “The experts tell us it has great possibilities.” Qwilleran was beginning to remember her now. Amberina was the least weird of the Three Weird Sisters. “The building used to be very grand,” she was saying. “Some changes have been made, but the architects say they’re reversible. It could go back to being a fashionable place to live, and that would be a real boost for Junktown. Right now the Casablanca is . . . well, the tenants are a mixed bag. But they’re interesting! Mostly singles, but a few couples, not necessarily married. Whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics . . . yuppies, artists, truck drivers, wealthy widows, college students, a couple of stunning call girls, and a few bums and crazies, but they’re harmless.”
“You make it sound irresistible.”
“I live at the Casablanca myself,” she said with a small hysterical laugh.
Quill now remembered more about Amberina. She had dark hair, very attractive blue eyes (probably wore contacts), and a husband. Yet she now spoke as if she lived alone. “I’d like to see the place,” he said.
“Mary said to tell you the penthouse apartment is available for sublet, and it’s very well furnished. Maybe you’d like to come down and stay for a while.”
“Well, I don’t know . . .”
“You should decide fast, Mr. Qwilleran, because the developers are putting pressure on the owner of the building to sell it to them. SOCK is getting kind of antsy.”
“Who is the owner?”
“We call her the Countess. She’s seventy-five years old. She’s lived in the building all her life and still has her original apartment. I’m sure you could talk her into selling to your Memorial Fund, Mr. Qwilleran. You’re a very charming man.”
“Not always,” he protested in mock modesty, grooming his moustache. He was well aware of his success in winning over women, especially older ones. “If I were to drive down there,” he said slowly and thoughtfully, “I’d have to take my cats. Are pets permitted?”
“Cats are okay, but not dogs. In fact, there are cats all over the place.” Amberina giggled. “Some people call it the Casablanca Cathouse.”
“Did you say there’s a penthouse available?” he asked with increasing interest.
“You’d love it! It’s really very glamorous. There’s a large sunken living room with a skylight and indoor trees . . . and a marvelous view . . . and a terrace . . .”
“Let me call you back tomorrow. I’ll have to discuss it with my bosses,” Qwilleran said facetiously, meaning the Siamese.
“Don’t lose any time,” she warned. “If anything happens to the old lady, Mary says, the building will be sold to the developers so the heirs can be paid off.”
After hanging up the phone he rationalized fast. One: He had been confined to Moose County for three years, except for one flying trip Down Below to have dinner at the Press Club. Two: Winter was on its way, and winters in Moose County were not only cruel but interminable. Three: The imperiled Casablanca would be a convenient excuse to escape the glacial pavements and ten-foot snowbanks of Pickax. At least, he thought, there’s no harm in driving down and checking out the building’s potential.
First he broke the news to the Siamese. Living alone, he made it a practice to converse with his cats, often reading aloud to them and always discussing his problems and plans. They seemed to enjoy the sound of his voice, whether or not they knew what he was saying. More importantly, verbalizing his thoughts helped him to make decisions.
“Listen, you guys,” he called out to them, “how would you like to spend the winter in the Crime Belt instead of the Snow Belt? . . . Where are you?”
His companions had deserted their comfortable chair and were nowhere in view.
“Where did you brats go?” he demanded.
There was not a murmur from either of them, although he could feel their presence, and he could guess where they were. Koko had burrowed under the hearth rug, and Yum Yum was hiding under the rug in front of the sofa. Their silent comment was readily interpreted: They abhorred a change of address, and they sensed what Qwilleran had in mind.
He paced the floor with growing eagerness. Despite the reaction of his housemates, he relished the idea of a winter in the big city. He missed the Press Club. He missed the camaraderie of the staffers at the Daily Fluxion, where he had been a popular feature writer. He missed the stage shows, the hockey and pro basketball, and the variety of restaurants. There was one drawback: He would have to forgo the companionship of Polly Duncan. He had become very fond of Pickax City’s head librarian. They shared the same interests. She was his own age—an intelligent and loving woman. And since neither had a desire to marry, they were a compatible pair.
Polly was the first one he wanted to consult about his proposed venture, and he phoned her little house in the country, but before he could break the news, she quelched his elation with a cry of distress.
“Oh, Qwill! I was just about to call you. I’ve had some dreadful news. I’m being evicted!”
“What do you mean?” For years she had been the tenant of a snug cottage in farming country, and he had spent many idyllic weekends surrounded by cornfields and deer habitat and a hemisphere of blue sky.
“I told you the farm had been sold,” she said, almost in tears. “Now I learn that the new owner wants my cottage for his married son. Winter’s almost here! Where can I go? Landlords don’t permit cats, and I can’t give up Bootsie! What shall I do?” she wailed. Here was a woman who could devise a swift solution to the most complex problem arising at the public library; her panic over this personal setback was disturbing. “Are you there?” she cried impatiently. “Did you hear me, Qwill?”
“I heard you. I’m thinking,” he said. “It so happens that I’m invited to spend the winter months Down Below—in a penthouse apartment. That means . ...
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Book Description Putnam, 1990. Hardcover. Condition: New. New item. May have light shelf wear. Seller Inventory # 160827259
Book Description Putnam, 1990. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0399135545
Book Description Putnam Adult, 1990. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0399135545
Book Description Putnam, 1990. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110399135545
Book Description Putnam. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0399135545 Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. Seller Inventory # XM-0399135545