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The Cat Who Wasn't a Dog by Marian Babson
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The Cat Who Wasn't a Dog (2003)

by Marian Babson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Trixie and Evangeline (6)

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I like Babson's story ideas, which are a bit more unusual than many of the murder mysteries I've read this year. I find her writing less polished than that of many other authors in this genre, and the resolution in this novel emerges out of the blue rather than developing gradually out of clues the reader could use to figure out the mystery when the sleuth does. The characters are a bit flat, too, and have the sort of crazy fake names that make them all seem less realistic. I'd give this book a bit less than 4 stars, but it was better than a 3 on account of the story itself, which was entertaining. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 30, 2017 |
Although The Cat Who Wasn't a Dog came out a good eight years after the fifth book in the Trixie and Evangeline series, Break A Leg, Darlings, not much time has passed for our Golden Age stars of stage and screen. They received Dame Cecile Savoy's invitation to a Brighton revival of Arsenic and Old Lace in chapter two of that book. The play is still being rehearsed when this one opens. Dame Cecile is an old friend of Evangeline's. She and a Matilda Jordan are cast as Aunts Abby and Martha Brewster. (If you've never seen the movie version that starred Cary Grant, watch it. It's very funny.)

As we know from book two, Encore Murder, Trixie and Evangeline were planning to play those very roles in their own revival. Too bad their producer married their daughter, Matilda, and went on his honeymoon instead of finding them a theater. (No, the ladies aren't anything but friends. Matilda is the biological daughter of Evangeline, but was reared as Trixie's daughter.) Now it looks as if Evangeline will be able to step in for Dame Cecile, who has suffered a tragic loss.

If you've read any of the earlier books in the series, you should be primed for an amusing farce of a murder mystery in the style of the classic Nick and Nora Charles films.

The victim was a stranger to our elderly heroines, but not the person falsely accused of the crime. There's a subplot involving Matilda Jordan and the impossible younger woman who managed to hang on to her father long enough to become his widow. Another involves Matilda and testing recipes for her proposed cook book. A third involves a lovely and sweet-natured cat, the focus of a bitter dispute.

Let the curtain open...

NOTES (pop culture references, fictional and real name-dropping, character facts, and non-spoiler tips to help those who've read the book find things again):

Chapter 1:

a. 'Widow's weeds' are

b. There's an 'East Lynne' reference.

c. The 'boot' is British English for what we call a car's trunk in the USA.

d. 'The Show Must Go On' is an old

e. Fleur-de-Lys, 'Fleur,' for short, was Dame Cecile's beloved female Pekinese dog.

f. I laughed aloud at Evangeline's reaction to Dame Cecile handing her her cape.

g. Trixie makes the acquaintance of a little Japanese bobtail cat named Cho-Cho-San under appalling circumstances.

Chapter 2:

a. Trixie is falling under Cho-Cho-San's spell already.

b. 'Who'll bell the cat' comes from Æsop's Fables. http://www.bartleby.com/17/1/67.html

c. There's a comparison to 'The Madwoman of Chaillot'.

d. Muttonchop whiskers are those whiskers on the sides of a man's face that are shaped like a chop of mutton (mutton chops look a lot like pork chops, but a bit narrower). Think President Martin Van Buren: http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2012/05/martin-van-buren-becomes-a-social-med...

e. Dame Cecile is Matilda Jordan's guest for the rehearsal and run of the play.

f. Trixie tells us what the Royal Empire Theatre's presentations usually are.

g. Dame Cecile's explanation of the problem about the actor playing Teddy Roosevelt Brewster made me snicker.

Chapter 3:

a. The sudden apparition in the kitchen doorway at Matilda's introduces herself as Soroya Zane.

b. Matilda Jordan has a voice like warm clotted cream.

c. Matilda's younger stepmother is implying she inherited Matilda's house from Mr. Jordan, but he never owned it.

Chapter 4:

a. Matilda explains why she can't evict her stepmother, who was married to her father for the last three years of his life.

b. There's a reference to Madame Arcati in 'Blithe Spirit'.

c. I love Matilda's description of Soroya's film career.

d. Trixie remarks about the U. S. Cavalry in old films.

e. Dame Cecile rages at Trixie.

f. Trixie has already shortened the cat's name to 'Cho-Cho'.

g. The play is due to open next week.

Chapter 5:

a. Trixie has taken Cho-Cho-San home.

b. Nigel, who was a supporting character in Break A Leg, Darlings, and possibly in book four, Even Yuppies Die, which I haven't read, is back.

c. There's a comparison to famous film directors/producers (or both) De Mille, Preminger, Selznick, and Zanuck.

d. Cho-Cho loves a gift Nigel gave Evangeline. Trixie compares it to a prop from 'Darling of the Bowery'.

e. Enter Martha Dolan Carpenter with Jocasta Purley, who is supposed to help her with her cook book.

f. Jocasta gushes to Evangeline in a way that makes Trixie take precautions.

g. Evangeline has capped teeth.

h. The Lady Lemmings are explained.

i. The theme and proposed title for the book are given.

j. Trixie recalls her New York chorus girl days. (As for that bit about soup made from tomato ketchup/catsup, I recall my father telling me that having to live on that for awhile is why he never ate tomato soup.)

k. We get a cooking tip.

Chapter 6:

a. Mention is made of the 'Argus,' and out-of-town newspapers to be gotten at a couple of London train stations. Also, a description of the taxidermy shop's neighborhood is given.

b. Trixie hadn't met Dame Cecile until Evangeline introduced them a few months ago.

c. Trixie and Evangeline are thinking of Charles Lamb's 'A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig'. You may read it here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/43566

d. Trixie shows us how to make discount chicken soup without using a mix.

e. A fake film that was Matilda Jordan's first (her father, Gervaise, was also in it) is mentioned. We get a bit of gossip about Gervaise Jordan. One of the extras in the film's fate is included.

f. Loved what Evangeline did that time Gervaise tried to sexually harass her!

Chapter 7:

a. The softening of relations between Evangeline and Detective-Superintendent Ron Heyhoe from the last book have been enough that she calls him for help, even though he has no jurisdiction in Brighton.

b. One suspects that Brighton's Detective-Superintendent Hector Thursby is going to regret what happened in that rugby game when he and Heyhoe were rookies.

c. I laughed aloud at the comparison Trixie made with Evangeline's luggage.

d. 'Barnstorming' is used for tours of brief stops to put on shows (or political/promotional talks) in rural areas as well as to referring those air shows from the biplane days.

e. Evangeline uses Gone With the Wind to make a disparaging remark.

f. Trixie comes from a long line of By-Guess-and-By-God cooks.

g. One disaster mitigates another.

Chapter 8:

a. '[Making] a rod for your own back' is doing something that will cause you trouble later.

b. The room Matilda assigns to Trixie is described, as is its view.

c. Trixie remembers her first trip to Europe, which was on an old liner.

d. The Clean Air Act in reference to the coal cellar is mentioned.

Chapter 9:

a. Brighton's name and status change are mentioned.

b. There's a reference to the fictional 'The Happy Couple' films Evangeline starred in.

c. Matilda was 46 when Soroya married her father.

d. Detective-Superintendent Thursby has arrived.

Chapter 10:

a. The phrase about the cupboard being bare comes from the nursery rhyme about Old Mother Hubbard. http://www.rhymes.org.uk/old_mother_hubbard.htm (The version I learned didn't have 'little' in the last line and said "dog' not 'doggie'.)

b. We get Trixie's 'No Pans to Wash Poached Egg' recipe.

Chapter 11:

a. Evangeline prepares her hangover remedy.

b. Evangeline prepares Buck's Fizzes.

c. Matilda's deck is described.

d. Jocasta makes barley water.

Chapter 12:

a. Cho-Cho-San's owner takes her away.

b. It's rehearsal time. The actor playing 'Teddy' keeps making mistakes.

c. We are introduced to Garrick, the theatre cat. The theater itself was built in 1809, by the way.

d. Jem, the theatre handyman, appeared in 'Three on a Match' with Evangeline and Dame Cecile when he was a child. We learn how World War II ended his career.

Chapter 13:

a. Cho-Cho-San is the only Japanese bobtail cat in England. How she got there is explained.

b. 'Hell hath no fury...' is even shorter for William Congreve's line, 'Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.' than the usual shortening: 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.' (Of course, given the number of men who kill the women who scorn them, I think the saying applies equally to both sexes.)

c. Trixie spies a present she wants to buy for Viola on a street named Regency Close. (Viola and Orlando are Hugh's children by his first wife. How nice that Trixie thinks of Viola as her granddaughter, not her step-granddaughter.)

d. Our ladies have found the taxidermy shop again and meet a local householder who doesn't appreciate ghost rumors. They discuss ghosts.

e. Evangeline blames one of Trixie's habits on all those gangster films she was in.

Chapter 14:

a. Martha is at her mothers' Docklands flat. More culinary disasters, alas.

b. Martha wails about differences between British and American spoon sizes as well as dealing with ingredients and varieties of measurements available. (No wonder all those actor-donated recipes are being tested first.)

c. There's a Groucho Marx comparison.

d. We learn about an attempt to popularize exotic meats.

e. An avant-garde production of 'Charlie's Aunt' is mentioned that Evangeline recall a bad memory.

Chapter 15:

a. Neither Trixie nor Evangeline has ever seen the Royal Pavilion at Brighton.

b. A shop featuring cats has an effect on Trixie.

c. Trixie and Evangeline discuss a theory based upon all those B movie scripts they've dealt with.

d. Trixie compares real life adventure to movie adventure.

e. Trixie is thinking that a silver bullet might be helpful.

Chapter 16:

a. 'Off-license' a store that sells liquor the buyer drinks somewhere else.

b. The play opens that night.

c. Brownie points are good deeds or favors done to earn favor or appreciation from someone else. I thought they were named for the youngest Girl Scouts, but apparently there are other possibilities.

d. Trixie is horrified by the suggestion Evangeline makes about one of her oldest and dearest friends.

e. 'Have some Madeira, m'dear?' is a song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hO4qvEtPZ4

f. Jem recalls the kind of cooking theatrical landladies were infamous for in the old days. What they called a 'cold collation' sounds quite unappetizing, as does the kind of meat pies served in the winter.

g. Jem shares an anecdote about a young actor who brought a steak for his landlady to cook and the insulting instructions he gave her.

Chapter 17:

a. Hah! Don't miss what Dame Cecile did to get Teddy to act his part properly on opening night.

b. Trixie tells us about a local bakery when she talks about hygiene in England.

c. Trixie's description of Garrick and Cho-Cho at the buffet made me laugh.

d. The Earth Mother type can refer to early fertility goddesses or to women who are both maternal and sensual.

e. Trixie has capped teeth, too.

f. Trixie is reminded of a bit involving a comedian and an elephant on stage.

g. Martha calls to tell Trixie something about a playwright and his girlfriend.

Chapter 18:

a. Soroya and Matilda argue about the house.

b. A doxy is an old-fashioned word for a woman who has sex with a man who isn't her husband. He may also support her financially.

c. Eddie tells us the only time he's seen police officers in Brighton before.

d. Thursby tells Evangeline about the stuffed horse that was in the taxidermy shop.

e. Trixie uses a line from 'Little Red Riding Hood' to describe Thursby.

f. Thursby and Evangeline have an argument of sorts.

Chapter 19: We learn the new housekeeper's full name from her birth certificate. (Yes, they snooped.)

Chapter 20:

a. Jekyll and Hyde come from a famous novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Even if you haven't read the book, you've probably seen a movie version or a TV/cartoon spoof. https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/42

b. Frella the director uses a line our heroines are very familiar with. Trixie compares her delivery to Evangeline's at her hammiest.

c. Trixie bargains with Teddy.

d. Dame Cecile recalls a story about the actor Sir Henry Irving.

Chapter 21:

a. Dame Cecile and Trixie argue over the differences between cats and dogs.

b. There's a recipe that involves an old saying about hats.

c. Trixie recalls why the Mad Hatter was insane.

d. We meet a poodle.

e. Allez-oopis the proper form of 'Alley - oop'.

f. The names Chlo-Chlo, Margot, Frou-Frou and a song from 'The Merry Widow' are mentioned.

Chapter 22:

a. Some information about Japanese bobtail cats is given.

b. Passport for Pets -- there really are such things.

c. Soroya's stage surname is 'Zane'.

Chapter 23: Nigel brings Evangeline something.

It's another sprightly entry in a series about two spry women who deserve more books about them.

Dog lovers: There are two in this book, although only one gets any action.

Cat lovers: Besides the title cat, there's a gentleman named Garrick.

Kam Mac is the artist whose cover shows a golden-eyed, tortoiseshell-and-white Japanese bobtail cat in front of a red curtain, a dog's rawhide bone at her feet. Don't you love it when the cover artist bothers to get it right? ( )
  JalenV | Aug 31, 2016 |
Trixie and Evangeline are back in fine form. This time they are helping a friend of Evangelines take her dog to the taxidermist when they discover the body of the owner, the place is set on fire and Trixie rescues a very much alive cat. Lots of humor though the murderer is fairly obvious. ( )
  RachelNF | Jan 15, 2016 |
Absolute nonsense, a truly terrible book both in plot (although I wouldn't really describe the jumbled events as a 'plot' as such) and style. ( )
  Becchanalia | Apr 23, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marian Babsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mac, KamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rotstein, David BaldeosinghCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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If you ask me, Dame Cecile Savoy was overdoing it.
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[Our heroines have staked the scene of the crime. Evangeline believes the killer will be coming back.]

'Maybe.' She could be right. I hoped she wasn't. If she was, it was very silly of us to have come here by ourselves to face the villain. We tended to overlook the fact that, when we were tiptoeing through the perils in our films, we had a camera crew, stunt people for the dangerous bits and a director to yell 'Cut!' when the action got too hairy. Now we were acting out the scripts all on our own -- with no cavalry to ride to the rescue if we got into trouble. (chapter 15)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"First published in Great Britain under the title Not Quite a Geisha, by Constable" tp verso
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312991371, Mass Market Paperback)

Dame Cecile Savoy's "revolting floor mop" of a Pekinese has passed away at a ripe old age. Now, the aging British actress convinces her rivals on stage and screen, Trixie and Evangeline, to support her in her hour of grief...by accompanying her to a taxidermist. But it's a cab ride straight to a cat-astrope! No sooner do the three elderly thespians enter "Stuff Yours" than they discover a dead body, a live kitty in a cage, and flames bursting from the back room. Fortunately for a rare Japanese bobtail called Cho-Cho-San, Trixie grabs the cat before fleeing the scene. But who's the victim? Who set the fire? And why was a gorgeous feline going to be stuffed? Of course, Cho-Cho-San knows more than she's letting on as the curtain goes up on foul play, murderous jealousies, and a killer who may be going to the dogs....

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:07 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Melodramatically grieving over the death of her Pekinese, Dame Cecile Savoy takes the dog's body to the taxidermist, where she discovers a fire, a dead body, and a cat in need of rescue and becomes involved in a case of arson, kidnapping, and murder.

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