This month’s selection by Lilian Braun Jackson is No. 25 in a 29-book series which, sadly, ended last year with the death of Ms. Braun at the age of 97.

She started The Cat Who… series in 1966, wrote three books and then took an 18-year hiatus before starting the series up again. 

Again, we’re involved in a mystery that isn’t so much a solving of a crime as watching people go through their daily lives and the whole thing fall to pieces around them.  Mr. Q doesn’t have an impact on the outcome – he’s just an observer.  He’s the one that people bring information to.  Joan thought Mr. Q was a lot like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.  He’s quite the village busybody, but with a rather deluxe twitchy moustache.  As for the cats, well, cats are weird.  Yum Yum is not a case solver and Koko seems to be demonstrating telepathic powers.  Can he read?  Why does he know when things happen in the middle of the night?  Who knows.  He’s a cat.

Most of the group said they would be interested in reading earlier stories in this series.  We understand that as Ms. Jackson got along in years, her work suffered, much to her fans’ dismay. We discussed how the series seemed to be weakening at the end and there was talk of how a ghost writer may have become involved, how the Amazon.com reviews were pretty scathing and the fact that the 30th in the series had been cancelled by the publisher.  Earlier books were said to be much more interesting, with more involvement of the cats and more mystery.

A lively discussion ensued about whether Pickaxe is really a true representation of northern Minnesota.  The restaurants seem pretty posh for a rather rural area, but one of our members had spent a significant amount of time where the series is supposedly set and we were advised that there was a lot of tourism.  Summertime boating and fishing, hunting in the fall, winter skiing and ice fishing and the weather was generally very pleasant, which attracted quite a lot of visitors.  And yes, the descriptions in the story were pretty true to life.  We found that intriguing.

As a mystery – eh.  As a cat story – eh.  As a character study – better.  There are definitely some strange and wonderful characters

Joan threw out a selection of books – the first in the Cat Who… series, a Sneaky Pie mystery, a Daisy Dalrymple mystery and the Maisie Dobbs that she wouldn’t let anyone take as she clutched it to her bosom.

The group also discussed a change in the 2012 reading line-up.  Margaret Truman is out and we’ve moved the true crime to July.  In March, we’ll welcome local author David Sundstrand to our meeting and we’ll discuss Shadows of Death, the second installment of his Desert Sky Mystery series.

There was also Boston Crème Pie (thanks, Nancy!) before we adjourned to go watch the Packers game.