Thursday, March 08, 2007

Psychic kitty in the background

kw: book reviews, fiction, mysteries, cats

Sometimes I've ruminated on the kind of female characters found in male-written stories, particularly if the woman is the lead. It seems to me that women write of men better than the converse. There are now 28 books in Lillian Jackson Braun's Cat Who series, with a male lead. How does he stack up? I'd say he's less realistic than most; he is more of a woman's mind in a male body, or perhaps a man who suits Ms Braun's idea of what a man should be.

In the earlier Cat Who books, mustachioed James Qwilleran was portrayed better; he began as a journalist down on his luck, swept by events into a new kind of life. Each novel has had a murder or two for him and his cat Koko to solve. The other cat, Yum Yum, has pretty much been along for the ride, at most providing symmetry. But the books had drama enough to keep one going, providing Mr. Q. with adventures and scrapes enough to give us our occasional guilty thrill.

The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers continues a trend found in the most recent four or five books towards a more hands-off approach. About the only contact Qwill now has with the crimes is hearing Koko's "death howl", by which he knows the death that occurred just then was a murder. The narratives are so much more concerned with six or seven sub-plots, in which Qwill and his "K Fund" solve this or that problem, that the murder mystery in each has been pushed into the background, and serves nearly no dramatic purpose.

Time to re-name the series, perhaps A Mustache and his Money.

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