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The Cat Who... series has been a literary standard since the late 1980s, with a book coming out nearly every year since Braun returned from a long hiatus of writing. The series features Jim Qwilleran, called Qwill, a big-city-nobody turned small-town-aristocracy. But Qwill has one unique trait -- he's constantly getting caught up in bizarre mysteries and small-town intrigue. Helping to solve these so-called mysteries is his 60-whiskered Siamese cat, Koko, who has a sixth sense for solving crime and uncovering peculiar happenings.

In The Cat Who Sang for the Birds, a new art gallery opens up in the small town of Pickax, Moose County, a farm house burns down, and Koko the cat develops an interest in Mark Twain and bird-watching.

The problem with The Cat Who... series is the fact that it's gone from engaging and original to stale. Most of The Cat Who Sang for the Birds focuses not on the crime -- a burned-out farmhouse and an old woman killed after being swindled -- but rather on small-town happenings. It's incredibly dull. Qwill's dates with his girlfriend, preparations for a whole-town spelling bee, butterflies and town trickery, it's all very tedious.

The plot is serious. It involves money-grubbing businesses, dishonest politicians, robbery, domestic violence, and a thousand other topics that deserve more respect that being the backdrop to Qwilleran and his girlfriend having a spat or the spelling bee not becoming popular enough for Qwill's taste. It was hard to get through, because the characters I used to be compelled by have become cookie-cutter and pointless.

One compliment I will afford the book is that the cat did not play an overwhelming role in it, since, previously, it was the cat and not his owner who essentially solved the crime, and I have a hard time swallowing that.

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buecherwald
the forest-dweller

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