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The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (Cat Who... #1)

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  18,828 ratings  ·  664 reviews
Jim Qwilleran, is a prizewinning reporter who's been on the skids but is now coming back with a job as feature writer (mostly on the art scene) for the Daily Fluxion. George Bonifield Mountclemens, the paper's credentialed art critic, writes almost invariably scathing, hurtful reviews of local shows; delivers his pieces by messenger; lives with his all-knowing cat Koko in ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 5th 2003 by Berkley Trade (first published 1966)
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One for the Money by Janet EvanovichThe No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall SmithCrocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth PetersChocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne FlukeThe Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Cozy Mystery Series
6th out of 454 books — 1,334 voters
One for the Money by Janet EvanovichChocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne FlukeAbby Cooper, Psychic Eye by Victoria LaurieThe No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall SmithMurder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
Best Cozy Mystery Series
12th out of 968 books — 1,104 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike (the Paladin)
I am surprised in a way at finding myself giving a "series mystery" book four stars (since I make it a point to hand out very few "5s" that's a big score for me). I don't read a lot of mysteries and only ran across MS. Braun because I was looking for audio books for my wife. She was in ill health for a long time and had trouble holding and later seeing to read text, so I was constantly scouring the public library shelves and used book stores for audio books. Sometimes I would take them to work w ...more
Tonile {My Cup and Chaucer}
Written in 1966, Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who Could Read Backwards is certainly not the oldest book I’ve ever read, nor is it one of the best books I’ve ever read, but it was unique because of one of the main characters. Koko the Siamese cat, who can read a freshly published newspaper backwards by tracing the letters and who has a knack for uncovering clues that piece together difficult crimes. This book in a way reminded me of an Alfred Hitchcock film – a lot of build up to a brief yet ex ...more
Jerry
Fine 1st entree in long running series for cat/mystery fans...

With nearly two dozen novels in "The Cat Who..." series, Braun has obviously struck a chord with mystery and cat lovers. Almost a classic yarn in the ilk of Elliot Queen, there's no sex and no profanity in this nice clean straightforward story of three murders -- a puzzling whodunit. Jim Qwilleran is introduced as the leading man; an accomplished journalist, he takes an "Art Beat" job with a small paper for which he's hardly qualifie
...more
Clare O'Beara
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of how gruff cynical reporter Jim Qwilleran acquires his detecting sidekick, Koko the Siamese cat.

Qwill at this point is a hardworking, gone-sober reporter in a city, with little money and no love interest. He's definitely not looking for a snooty cat. A crime intervenes and Koko is left without an owner.

I liked these early books better than the ones where Qwill comes into a lot of money and lives a rural life just below the Canadian border. Qwill is presented w
...more
Jarrod
One of the things that has stuck out to me over the course of my life, is that wherever I go.. there will always be a "Cat Who...." book on the shelf of the local bookstore. So recently I decided to sit down with the first of the series to give it a gander.

I was taken completely by surprise by the fact that the first three books of this series were written in the 1960s. It seems that she wrote the first three, and then came back to the series over twenty years later. Having been a fan of Crime
...more
Jimmy Hanson
"5" For feline entertainment, about a "3" for mystery technique.

I used to love these novels when I was in high school [some 13 years ago] and decided to rent them from the library again from sheer nostalgia. It was as entertaining as I remember it being, from the point of view of an openly excited reader and a cat-lover to boot.

The introduction of Qwill to KoKo is more poignant than I remember it being, simply because he [KoKo] is a bit more of a snob, being with his previous owner - a rather se
...more
Sally906
This the first in the “Cat Who…” series. It is were we meet Jim Qwilleran, prize winning newspaper reporter. He has had a bit of a rough time in the past few years – not much is said as to what the problem was, but he only drinks tomato juice, his wife has left him, and all he can hope for is a job reporting on the art scene for the Daily Fluxion. There is a mysterious art critic, George Bonifield Mountclemens, already commenting on the actual art – Jim is expected to work on the human interest ...more
Katherine
This is the first book of "The Cat Who" series. I've read the series previously and enjoyed it, my kind of mind-candy. It's fun and relatively light but gives you the opportunity to stretch your brain just a little over the whodunit.

These are less complex than Agatha Christie's mysteries but Braun does paint an interesting community of characters, not only in the protagonist and his cats but in the townsfolk as well. Seeing that unfold throughout the series is probably one of the biggest draws
...more
Alondra
Jan 09, 2014 Alondra rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cozy mystery lovers
Shelves: books-i-own
4 Stars

What a fun piece of fluff. This was just enjoyable and the main character Qwilleran is not irritating or over the top. Koko or should I say Kao K'o-Kung; the Siamese cat. Qwillerans descriptions of his interactions with the cat were hilarious; you have to be a cat owner to understand (maybe). I like his easy manner, unapologetic honesty and dry sense of humor. Just fun reading.

Need a cozy mystery while it is cold?? This book is for you.
Una Tiers
The first Cat Who book introduces Qwilleran and Koko and Arch Riker. The language is lovely: "even his mustache seemed happy...it was easy to suspect that he might be behaving in some unspeakable way."

Angel
Some days you just want a light novel, something you don't have to get into to deeply. Sometimes you want to meet with old friends, and not worry about heavy duty mystery or murders but can go from murder to solving it in a few hours.. some days you need "the Cat Who.." books.

the series has 28 books, I have read all at least twice, they are quickly engrossing, the characters likable and you are always surprised by the ending.

the first books, "the Cat who read Backwards" the cat who ate Danish
...more
C.C. Thomas
This is the book that started it all. It's not as good as some of the later titles, but I still loved it.

Jim Qwilleran is an old newspaper fogey who needs a job. The only one available at a local newspaper is for an art correspondent. Qwilleran thinks beggars can't be choosers and how different could it be than reporting on real news? Qwill used to be a big-time news reporter and it's a little unclear why the step down from grace; apparently, he had a drinking problem that ruined his career and
...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Although I started listening to the Cat Who series with The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards is actually the first in this series of cozy mysteries. The narration was just as good as in the other book. Sadly, I couldn't say the same for the story itself.

First, I think the story is beginning to show its age in an entirely unacceptable way, as we deal with a woman the book somewhat subtly indicates is a lesbian and than very un-subtly names "Butchy". The plot than goes o
...more
Roberto
This was so good! The (awesomely outdated, even for then) modern art stuff was so great and kinda reminded me of the Columbo where the smug art connoisseur guy says stuff like 'notice how even the most abstract artist signs their name realistically?' - there's even a 'Happening', which is obvs superb. And the kitty descriptions are seriously the best i've ever read. Oh, and tomato-juice drinking Qwilleran and his intuitive moustache, also great. Who knew?
Zach Montague
I work at a public library and had laughed at what I considered to be soft-boiled mysteries for old women. Turns out I was right but I loved it so much specifically for that reason. The protagonist being a mustachioed down-to-earth guy surprised me as the lead in a mystery involving a cat. I really wanted to see how a felid would go about solving a crime and I was satisfied with the Siamese's involvement being kept ambiguous so we can wonder if James, the main character, is reading into the anim ...more
Ron Davis
Light, airy, nicely written and dessert-like in its feel. The book is a bit dated, but it was written in the 60s.

If one wants to read a thriller or a black, fear-and-gore filled book, this isn't even close to a good choice.

This was my first LJ Braun read, but it won't be the last.
This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For
The first book in a long, light mystery series, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards is extremely dated and has not aged well in my opinion. A book written 50+ years ago could simply feel like a period piece or better reflect the time and place it was written, but this book lacks any sort of plot or character depth and instead relies on shallow over-the-top caricature with an absurdity of situation whose humor doesn't translate well through time. Some examples: one character who is overtly meant to ...more
Rachael Ryan
Just adored this book. Language and character propelled you to earlier times of typewriters, pipes, and evening standards, without having to herald the date. Great pace. Will be seeking out the entire series and hope each is as good as the first!
Writerlibrarian
Quick reread. I vaguely remembered this opening book of Lilian Jackson Braun. There is a break in this series. The first three were written in the mid 1960's, Braun stopped and twenty years after publishing The Cat Who Could Read Backwards she wrote The Cat Who Saw Red and it relaunched the series.

This is KoKo's bow, where Siamese Cat and newspaper reporter Jim Qwilleran meet. Qwilleran returns to journalism after years battling drinking abuse. The Art beat is strange but Qwilleran soon finds h
...more
Kaye
The first in the series originally written in 1968. I enjoyed some of the unintended dating (typewriters, phone booths etc.) Reporter Jim Qwilleran starts a new beat as a feature writer for an arts section of the local newspaper. Murder soon happens in the art world and he becomes involved. Along the way he meets the Siamese cat KoKo who is bright and helps the investigation along. I can't say it left me wanting to immediately pick up the next book (of 30) in the series but I probably will. A ni ...more
Darla
I have read all but the most recent of this series, though it has been several years ago when I first started. I just finished rereading this one for this month's Meridian column on funny "series" and was reminded what I loved about it. Great characters, funny circumstances, nicely crafted plot & dialogue... & the most endearing cat!

Sadly, Braun lost her touch with the last few books- but then again she's in her 90s & still writing. Going senile? Possibly...but it was a great run wh
...more
Perry Whitford
Jim Qwilleram is an experienced newspaperman with an expressive pepper-and-salt mustache who, recovering from a divorce and a drink problem, takes a new job in a new town. The paper is called The Daily Fluxion, the job is writing feature articles for the arts department.

Jim knows nothing about art. His background is mostly in crime, but he is about to discover that the world of the arts is a cut-throat and competitive one, where everybody thinks everybody else is a talentless phony and will stop
...more
Victoria Miller
This is the first title in Lilian Jackson Braun's delightful 'Cat Who' series, which features Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cat companions. Qwill (as his friends call him) was once a highly successful crime reporter in NYC; however, a brutal divorce solaced by an affair with The Bottle caused his career to tailspin. Having finally sobered up, Qwill applies for a job at a midwestern newspaper and is assigned, much to his dismay, the art beat. However, just because Qwill isn't chasing crime, that ...more
aPriL eVoLvEs (ex-Groot)
Jim Qwilleran is a little anxious. He wants - needs - the job he is interviewing for with the managing editor of the Daily Fluxion, circulation 427,463. A recently divorced man in his 40's, on the wagon, he hasn't had a steady job for a long time. He is looking for a fresh start as, hopefully, the crime reporter, his speciality before he hit the skids. When he accepts a position on the newspaper as the Art feature writer, he's grateful for the job, no matter how rueful he feels about the demotio ...more
Becky
Sometimes revisiting an old favorite book lets you down - but sometimes, like in this case, it just brings back good memories and reintroduces you to the same old friends between the pages. I had actually forgotten that the first few books were written in the 60's. It's so strange reading the casual sexism (especially from a woman writer) that was so typical of that time. Stranger still to watch Qwilleran run all over creation to have coffee and a dessert that didn't send "the wrong message" to ...more
Sarah Apsey-Barres
I just finished rereading this book. It was so good the first time! But that was about 15 years ago. Even better the second time around. I work in broadcast television news and the photographer character, the editor character, all the newsroom and police characters are dead on! But none so as much as the star of the show, the title character. I love Braun's writing style. And I'm looking forward to reading the rest of The Cat Who series, with her hilarious characters!
Marybeth Mank
The first time I read this book, I laughed my head off. Anyone who knows cats will be charmed by this series of books. The remarkable Koko, the wily though charming YumYum, and their beloved owner Jim Qwilleran (that's right-with a W) with his super-sensitive luxuriant mustache and penchant for solving mysteries as well as giving out tons grants from the Q Fund. I think I have read just about every book in this series and there wasn't a bad one in the bunch. Happy Reading!
M. J.
My start on this book was a bit awkward, and some background might be in order. Some years back my wife, who is always looking for a good mystery, found a few Cat Who books at a local used book store, and decided to try them. She then attempted to collect more of them, and put them in order. I started reading them in the order she identified; I am not certain whether I finished all of those in the house, but eventually either I had read them (all that we had) or she had misplaced them in places ...more
Lucy Somerhalder
Brilliant. Utterly brilliant. A little bit gritty, a little bit funny, terrifically well-written, great characters and a thoroughly engaging mystery. This was pure joy from start to finish.
Sandy
This is the first book in the Cat Who series, and a re-read for me. I really enjoyed these books for many years until, like so many long-run series, it just totally lost my interest. However, in this first book introducing Jim Qwilleran & his Siamese partner-in-detection Koko, former crime beat reporter Qwilleran comes to a new town after a long alcoholic fall and becomes an art writer, something he knows nothing about. However having a reporter's natural nosiness, he soon becomes enmeshed i ...more
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Lilian Jackson Braun was an American writer. She is well-known for her light-hearted series of The Cat Who... mystery novels. The Cat Who books center around the life of former newspaper reporter James Qwilleran, and his two Siamese cats, KoKo and Yum Yum in the fictitious small town of Pickax located in Moose County, "400 miles north of everywhere." Although never formally stated in the books, th ...more
More about Lilian Jackson Braun...
The Cat Who Saw Red (Cat Who... #4) The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern (Cat Who..., #2) The Cat Who Played Brahms (Cat Who... #5) The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare (Cat Who..., #7) The Cat Who Came to Breakfast (Cat Who... #16)

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