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The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal (1991)

by Lilian Jackson Braun

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Cat Who... (12)

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1,4372212,656 (3.58)37
Fiction. Mystery. HTML:

Qwill, Koko and Yum Yum return for another adventure "400 miles north of everywhere" in the extraordinarily popular Cat Who... series. Back in Pickax, Jim Qwilleran expects to resume a quiet life, but the people and animals of Pickax have other ideas. A noisy cardinal wakes him every morning. Nosy neighbors drop by uninvited and the Siamese misbehave, even sneezing on guests. As if that weren't bad enough, Qwill's longtime companion acts as though she is in love??with another man. But worst of all, Qwill finds a body in his apple orchard. When Qwill's friend becomes the chief suspect, he embarks on a crusade to clear Dennis Hough's name and win back Polly Ducan's heart. Even Koko sniffs out a few clues. But will their efforts be too little too late? Find out if Qwill can crack the case and win back Polly in this quirky, engaging romp through Moose County.… (more)

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English (21)  Italian (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
(4.5 / 5)

Ahh, the apple barn at last! The thing I remember most from when I read some of this series around 20ish years ago is the converted apple barn with ramps and balconies that Qwilleran, Koko, and Yum Yum live in. I didn't quite realize how long it took them to get there, but it isn't surprising that it was this far in, given the progression of Qwilleran's life up to this point. It's only a shame that their housewarming is punctuated by murder, not to mention the further tragedy that is more of a spoiler to mention here. The mystery in this book is another good one, though I was struck by similarities in the main players of the drama to those in a previous book, The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts. I loved Koko's "friendship" with the cardinal and found myself reacting with high sentiments at the developments related to it.

One thing I didn't care for in this book is the hit that the relationship between Qwilleran and Polly takes. The way they seem to regard each other makes me feel sad and wonder how long they can possibly last. They both seem ready to toss each other over at the first chance. Maybe this is supposed to be due to the fact that neither of them wants a marriage, but they still get quickly jealous over the other paying a little extra attention to someone of the opposite gender. I used to think of their relationship as sweet and comfortable, but I'm definitely starting to see it differently now. We'll see how that progresses, though, since I'm only a little more than 1/3 of the way through the series, which I do recommend for fans of cozy mysteries. ( )
  Kristi_D | Sep 22, 2023 |
I love the way these little mysteries wander into small town, middle of nowhere life. The cats keep me entertained. One thing is for sure, I never want to meet Jim Qwilleran; people are always dying around that man!

( )
  talon2claw | Dec 30, 2022 |
4 ½ stars
This was a reread that I’d last read in the 1990’s when I read the entire series available at the time. It was my favorite book of the series back then and I still remembered many details of the book which is different from my reread of the early books which I retained a slight familiarity with. It really stood up for me I liked that the mystery was tied together with Edmund Backhouse and will look for his biography next time I’m in the library. I also love the barn as a setting. ( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
After a disastrous venture Down Below, James Qwilleran and his cats are back in Pickax for the 12th in the series, and it doesnÛªt take much time before they are once again embroiled in a murder mystery.

The cardinal in the title refers mostly to a bird that Koko befriends after he, Qwill, and YumYum move into yet ANOTHER new home ‰ÛÒ a converted hexagonal apple barn on the Klingenschoen property. Qwill came up with this idea on the fly in the previous book, to explain his interest in large tapestries, and apparently he liked it so much that he went through with the project. This unique home, which includes a ‰ÛÏpenthouse‰Û built exclusively for the cats, attracts a great deal of interest and attention, so much so that tickets for a public tour to benefit the Pickax library are immediately sold out.

Shortly after he moves in, the entire Pickaxe amateur theater company shows up late one night for an impromptu party after the final performance of their latest play. Qwill has been involved with the company on and off. So he good-naturedly allows the gathering, which is a thin excuse for the troupe to get a more private look at his new home. After the party breaks up in the wee hours of the morning, Qwill ventures outside to see why one of the cars is still parked in front of the barn. He finds that it‰Ûªs owner ‰ÛÒ the widely disliked director of the play - has been murdered, leaving the entire theater company and himself as possible suspects.

This was one of my favorites in the series so far. The mystery was interesting as was a minor subplot where Polly the librarian seems to be two-timing Qwill. There were many funny moments involving the cats. Braun clearly knows that sinking feeling when a cat owner steps on something unexpected with their bare feet; and how cats will immediately jump into any open suitcase and refuse to budge; and how they will react with bored disdain when you present them with a new toy you were sure they would love.

In the previous book, the number of dead bodies piled up around James Qwilleran slowed down a bit, but the Grim Reaper is back. Scottie, his tailor, is one resident of Pickax who has finally picked up on this:
‰ÛÏWeel, laddie, you‰Ûªve done it again!‰Û he said, putting on the brogue that pleased his customers.

‰ÛÏMeaning What?‰Û Qwilleran asked.

‰ÛÏYou found another dead body! Canna remember any dead bodies before you moved into town.‰Û

Based on one of the deaths this time, it could be argued that it‰Ûªs not Qwill; instead Koko and YumYum are actually the Cats of Death. The two cats are alone with poor Grammy when she drops dead in the elevator.

Originally published: 1991

Body Count: 3 Hilary Van Brook (gunshot to the head, outside the apple barn); Dennis Hough (suicide/hanging inside the apple barn) Grummy (natural causes at her home in Lockmaster while Qwill and the cats are visiting.).

Preceded by: The Cat Who Lived High

Next Up: The Cat Who Moved a Mountain ( )
  AngeH | Jan 2, 2020 |
One of the delights of this series is that one never knows where Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cats, Koko and Yum-Yum will be residing as the setting for their residence changes throughout the series and they always add an interesting twist to the mystery of murder and mayhem and a fascinating new cast of characters for their interactions.

As always, I can't wait to read the next one in the series but didn't realize until I added the title on GoodReads that I missed reading #11 so will take a step back as I can't miss any of the titles in this series. ( )
  FerneMysteryReader | Nov 9, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lilian Jackson Braunprimary authorall editionscalculated
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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the husband who...
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September promised to be a quiet month in Moose County, that summer vacation paradise 400 miles north of everywhere.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Fiction. Mystery. HTML:

Qwill, Koko and Yum Yum return for another adventure "400 miles north of everywhere" in the extraordinarily popular Cat Who... series. Back in Pickax, Jim Qwilleran expects to resume a quiet life, but the people and animals of Pickax have other ideas. A noisy cardinal wakes him every morning. Nosy neighbors drop by uninvited and the Siamese misbehave, even sneezing on guests. As if that weren't bad enough, Qwill's longtime companion acts as though she is in love??with another man. But worst of all, Qwill finds a body in his apple orchard. When Qwill's friend becomes the chief suspect, he embarks on a crusade to clear Dennis Hough's name and win back Polly Ducan's heart. Even Koko sniffs out a few clues. But will their efforts be too little too late? Find out if Qwill can crack the case and win back Polly in this quirky, engaging romp through Moose County.

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