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The Cat Who Could Read Backwards

(The Cat Who... #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  29,415 ratings  ·  1,416 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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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  29,415 ratings  ·  1,416 reviews

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Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, but in the end it pleasantly surprised me, sound like I’m “damning it with faint praise” but that is not the case. In the end it really was good fun, and of course being a cat lover, I thought Koko was good and a fine example of a Siamese. My Siamese(cross) is also very vocal and amazingly intelligent.
Besides Koko, the characters were good and whilst stereotypes in a detective novel, they were all well done. The setting was a good one, small t
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
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jim Qwilleran's life took a bit of an unexpected detour....divorce, alcoholism....but he's getting things back on track. He takes a job as a feature writer with a newspaper, the Daily Fluxion. Although in the past he was a prize winning reporter, he starts out a bit humbly at his new job -- writing features on local artists. His publisher wants him to smooth some ruffled feathers. The paper's art critic has published some scathing, sarcastic commentary on the work of many local artists. Jim does ...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
C.  (friends, please call me by name)
Cats are my family. I enjoy any books that adequately include them; you know, more than claiming they exist. However I staved off collecting most of Lilian Jackson Braun’s sweet-looking books because they are numerous. Even I surmised they would be fluff. Perusal took years. Let me overturn that impression: they have substance! The mysteries are excellent and you really settle into the cast!

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards”, 1966, is constructed superbly. Jim Qwilleran, like many, didn’t know c
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
Ange H
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
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
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
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Not bad, but boring.
Pamela Shropshire
I’ve been reading cozy mysteries for a LONG time, but I had never read any of this famous series. According to Fantastic Fiction, Ms. Braun wrote and published the first three books in the 1960s, to some acclaim, and then disappeared from the writing scene for about 20 years. I found it an interesting and well-written of the genre. I enjoyed the comments about Qwilleran’s moustache, as though the moustache is a separate entity. Being a cat lover, I very much enjoyed Koko’s abilities to entertain ...more
Dan Myatt
Art Critic turned sleuth solves the crime with the aid of a neighbours cat!

It sounds silly and far fetched but was a lovely way to pass a few hours.

Light and fun read, a great way to pass a few hours!
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!
Katharyn Baker
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Third time's the charm-- the first time I read this book I liked it, the second I almost didn't like it, but the third time I fell in love. ...more
Kim Lockhart
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this easygoing, lighthearted, funny story. The writer's style reminded me a little of Jonathan Lethem. Though more streamlined and simple than contemporary fiction, the narrative still holds up as pure fun. ...more
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
Jimmy Hanson
Apr 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, other
"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
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, 2017
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
Alondra Miller
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.
Rachel Sample
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: series
3.5 stars.
An amusing send-up of modern art disguised as a mystery.
Very 1960s; girls are called dolls, electric pencil sharpeners are considered ostentatious, and everybody drinks and smokes.
The characters are charming and the mood is fun.
I would have rated it higher, but I found the ending a little disappointing.
Jim Qwilleran is up for a new job as a reporter and finds himself assigned to write about artists to help alleviate some of the lost revenue that has resulted from the mostly scathing reviews written by the mysterious George Bonifield Mountclemens III who lives alone with his cat where he records his reviews on cassette tape (very much the latest thing when the book was written in the mid-1960s) and picked up by messenger. His cat is one of the best characters in the book, but the book is chalk ...more
The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun is the first book in the Jim Qwilleran Feline Whodunnit mystery series. Jim Qwilleran takes an assignment to cover the art beat for the Daily Fluxion and becomes involved in a murder when a gallery owner is killed. It was interesting to go back to the first book and find out how the relationship between Jim Qwilleran and his cat Koko came about, and to see how Koko assists with the investigation. This book sets the scene for the series. A ...more
Kimberly Reads Books
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, cozy-mysteries, 2017
The Cat Who... series by Lilian Jackson Braun, this being the first, was the cozy mysteries that inspired my love for the genre. My father bought my first one from The Mystery Guild catalog and I fell in love with Qwilleran and his sleuthing mustache and cats. I read through most of the series in middle school and high school, so it's been a couple of years (wink, wink) since I've read them. I recently decided to go back to the books that started it all for me and found the first in the set at m ...more
Book Concierge
Book # 1 in a cozy mystery series featuring James Qwilleran, a newspaper reporter in an unnamed Midwestern city, and an extraordinary Siamese cat, Koko.

I’m sure I’ve read this before, because it was vaguely familiar, but I did not have it on my “read” list on Goodreads, so decided to give it a go.

I love cozy mysteries, and this is a great series. Qwilleran is a good amateur detective. As a reporter he is appropriately curious and has a great excuse for gathering information. In this first outi
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
Jess the Shelf-Declared Bibliophile
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. ...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

Other books in the series

The 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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