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

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  25,523 Ratings  ·  1,007 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 a ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 5th 2003 by Berkley Trade (first published 1966)
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5 stars to Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who Could Read Backwards. The cozy mystery is a major fan favorite, but who would think it could rate a full 5 stars! To me, I only compare books for ratings in their own genre, so among cozies, I think this is a top notch read.

I am very intrigued with this series. I loved the introduction of the cat. And the city backdrop was very fun. I was surprised to see the author had a 20 year span between the first few books and the remainder of the series, but
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
Ange H
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: real-books-i-own
This is the first book in the series, published in 1966. Like most of The Cat Who... books I've read, I found the mystery - a series of murders in the local art scene - to be the least compelling part of the experience. This was a great introduction to newsman James Qwilleran. For fans of the series, we know what fate has in store for Jim, but his circumstances are very different in this original novel: divorced, broke, unemployed. He lands a job as a features reporter for The Daily Fluxion. Arc ...more
Tonile {My Cup and Chaucer}
May 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dani (Dani Reviews Things & Love in a time of Feminism)
Rating: 3.5*

I don't read a lot of mysteries, but I had to read this for my university's book club. This is even more out of my norm, since it's not a modern thriller but more of a classic whodunnit, published before I was born.

The story is narrated by Qwilleran (not the only guy with an odd name), who takes on a job as an art reporter despite having a history of crime reporting (and no art knowledge whatsoever). But never fear, as his old job follows him to the new, with a death in the art world
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first exposure to Lilian Jackson Braun's cozy Qwilleran and Koko (the Siamese cat) mysteries. I had previously avoided them as the concept of the reporter, aided by a cat, solving mysteries didn't really appeal to me. However as I've begun to explore the mystery genre more and more and due to recommendations from a number of Goodreads friends, I finally bit the bullet and took the plunge (how's that for mixed metaphors). And I have to say, this introduction to Qwilleran, the new repor ...more
May 16, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
The mystery plot is decent but it took awhile to get going. The resolution felt extremely rushed and was a bit out of left field, which I don't enjoy in a murder mystery.

The book was written in the 1960's so parts of it are predictably dated. An electric pencil sharpener is a shocking piece of cutting edge technology. There's a very casual attitude to smoking and getting on a plane involves a lot less security. Also, I was very confused about a clue until I remembered that an electric clock is
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
Jimmy Hanson
Apr 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: other, 2011
"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
Jennifer Girard

I was so surprised with this one! I'm a crazy cat lady so the title was very appealing to me. I thought it would be very quirky and over the top but it works so well that I didn't mind it!

It was so quick to read to, it was refreshing. I'll continue the series for sure!
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: series, mystery, cats
Ahh...A beloved classic. Time to re-read this series.
Jerry B
Jul 20, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
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
Clare O'Beara
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cats, america-crime
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
Non mi intendo per nulla di come debba essere strutturato un giallo, quindi per questa prima storia della lunga serie,posso solo dare la sufficienza, comunque Koko,il gatto siamese detective mi piace molto, anche perché io ho avuto un siamese e so bene che non sono gatti uguali agli altri.
Non ho capito molto della caratterizzazione dei personaggi e mi sembra che la storia si risolva troppo velocemente nelle ultime pagine.
Comunque vado avanti con il libro successivo.

Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cozy mystery lovers
Shelves: books-i-own, mystery
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.
Aug 19, 2015 rated it liked it
An intriguing start to a new (for me) cozy mystery series. I enjoyed the characters and the unfolding of the plot. The murders happened later in the book than usual, with a quick resolution. I'm interested to see how things will pan out with the apartment now in the next book.
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, mystery
The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun is the first in a series of cozy mysteries. Jim Qwilleran is a middle aged reporter starting a new position at the Daily Fluxion as an art writer assigned to write stories about the local artists for the newspaper's feature section despite his complete lack of knowledge about art. As he begins introducing himself around town, the one constant he finds is that everyone hates his newspaper's art critic George Bonifield Mountclemens III. Then ...more
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Cat lovers, Mystery lovers, Animal detective fans
Oddly enough, I picked up a different book to read last night, but couldn't bring myself to open the front cover and start. I just really wanted to begin this book again, so I did!

The cat who could read backwards, the book that begun them all. Koko isn't in this one as much as I'd like, but it's still where we first find out about his origins. He is living with the Art critic George Bonifield Mountclemens the third, when Qwilleran comes to stay at the apartment below. Together, they solve the mu
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
Namitha Varma
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So I finally got around to the first of this series :P

Like others in the series, the story is exciting, with a well-developed plot, and I get to know how Kao K'o Kung (Koko) came to be with James Mackintosh (Jim) Qwilleran. (I so badly want to get a Siamese cat now!) The mystery is set in the art world of an unknown city that houses the newspaper The Daily Fluxion, where art-related persons - a gallery operator, an artist, a critic - start dying one after another. Qwill has his doubts and his q
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
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
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just the thing to distract one from the end of the world.

I enjoy the wit and lightness of this series. I usually dig into heftier tomes, but with the horrific presidential election and a cancer diagnosis, some engaging entertainment is in order.
Una Tiers
Feb 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The first Cat Who book introduces Qwilleran and Koko and Arch Riker. The language is lovely: "even his mustache seemed was easy to suspect that he might be behaving in some unspeakable way."

Sam Jones
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Decided to re-read the Cat Who series in order this time. I just love these books, not for the action or plot but for the characters - colouful, eclectic bunch... especially the cats, Koko and Yumyum.
Aug 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book was a waste of space. It was a total knockoff of other, better, 1950s/60s quirky character-driven books like Breakfast at Tiffany's. It is laden with two dimensional archetypes of concepts and characters including a Holly Golightly socialite knockoff and a stereotypical closeted lesbian named... wait for it... Butchy. Really??? The newspaper man's mustache is an almost-character that informs its owner through a variety of distracting and awkward twitches and ticks. The portrayal of gen ...more
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Domestic & Foreign Authors, Which Do You Prefer? 2 11 Oct 20, 2016 11:54AM  
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Cat Who... (1 - 10 of 29 books)
  • The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern (Cat Who..., #2)
  • The Cat Who Turned On and Off (Cat Who..., #3)
  • The Cat Who Saw Red (Cat Who... #4)
  • The Cat Who Played Brahms (Cat Who... #5)
  • The Cat Who Played Post Office (Cat Who..., #6)
  • The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare (Cat Who..., #7)
  • The Cat Who Sniffed Glue (Cat Who... #8)
  • The Cat Who Went Underground (Cat Who... #9)
  • The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts (Cat Who... #10)
  • The Cat Who Lived High (Cat Who... #11)

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“Are those cat hairs on your lapel, or have you been dating a blonde with a crew cut?” 14 likes
“The dance of life should be created from moment to moment with individuality and spontaneity.” 0 likes
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