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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The Cat Who Sang for the Birds is undeniably trashy fun. Jim Mackintosh Qwilleran and his dynamic feline duo, Koko and Yum-Yum, join forces once again to conquer the never-ending evil forces in rural Moose County. In this gripping installment of Braun's Cat series, middle-aged, curmudgeonly reporter Qwilleran is pitted against a popular local politician, Chet Ramsbottom.
The opening of the County Art Center heralds a new crime wave: Missing artwork, breaking and entering, and the increasingly foul language of a green parrot named Jasper suggest that something is wrong in this quiet corner of Maine. Qwilleran himself cries foul when a neighbor, Maude Coggin, dies in an unstoppable fire in her home immediately after selling off the bulk of her valuable farm. Who bought the farm out from under the old woman? Qwilleran and his usual cast of characters, including longtime girlfriend Polly Duncan and his newspaper buddy Arch Riker, determine to find out.
At Mrs. Coggin's funeral, Qwilleran turns his sharp eye to the crowd, checking for any missing faces. One noticeable minus is Beverly Forfar, the director of the Art Center, who was only too happy to see "the eyesore across the road" burn to the ground. Is she involved? Was the fire intentional? Or is Ms. Forfar simply more concerned with aesthetics than human life? The answer to his questions about the farm lie within the Art Center, but not as Qwilleran expects to find them.
And what of the mysterious happenings at the Art Center? Someone is entering the center late at night and watching movies in the Click Club.Nothing is missing, but the culprits leave something behind—the acrid smell of cigarette smoke. No one who works at the center smokes, particularly since Beverly laid down the rules, so it can't be an inside job, but there is no sign of forced entry. The movie fans must have a key. Since we know that crimes in Moose County don't occur independently of one another, Qwilleran searches for the link between the Art Center and Maude Coggin's land.
The ownership of the land seems to be his only clue. Via a string of seemingly unrelated occurrences—an urgent letter, a furry package on his front step, and the arrival of Painted Lady butterflies—Qwilleran learns that the land is owned by Northern Land Improvement, aka XYZ Enterprises, a Ramsbottom operation. Celia Robinson, Qwilleran's partner against crime, does a little reconnaissance work and discovers that the old Coggin Farm is held by Margaret Ramsbottom, the politician's wife! What is Chet trying to hide by putting the deed in Margaret's name?
With the help of the whimsically named Rollo McBee, Qwilleran finds a rusty coffee can sealed with electrical tape beneath the charred remains of Mrs. Coggin's outhouse. One hundred thousand dollars has been vacuum-packed in fresh grounds. Qwilleran's efforts to find the heirs lead him on a final manic goose chase through the artist community of Moose County and cause him to experiment with a new and unsavory cuisine—barbecue! The can is the final clue, and the cause of Qwill's ultimate triumph.
"The Cat Who Sang for the Birds" promises to please avid Braun fans and mystery lovers alike as it leads readers on a fast-paced romp through a crime-ridden rural town, "400 miles north of everywhere."