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For fifty years the late Eddington Smith had sold pre-owned books in a picturesque building behind the post office. Two days after his death it burned to the ground, and millions of printed pages were reduced to ashes. This would be the ideal site for a new bookstore. It was the end of an era and the beginning of a bright new adventure for readers. It would be built on the historic site where Eddington's grandfather had once shod horses and forged rims for wagon wheels. Perhaps that was not the blacksmith's only means of supporting his family. There had long been rumors....
All that aside, the site of the nineteenth-century smithy was to be the scene of a ceremonial groundbreaking. The good folk of Moose County liked special events: parades, barn raisings, livestock fairs, long funeral processions, and the like. They had never witnessed a formal groundbreaking. There would be a viewing stand for dignitaries,stirring music by the high school band, and a backhoe garlanded with flowers, to do the digging. It was suggested that the mayor should climb into the operator's seat and strike the first blow. Her Honor, Amanda Goodwinter, screamed, "Are you crazy? You couldn't get me on that blasted contraption with those silly flowers if you paid me!"
On Saturday vehicles streamed into Pickax from all directions. Newspapers in three counties were sending reporters and photographers. State police were called in to assist sheriff's deputies and Pickax police in handling the traffic. There had never been such a celebration in the history of Pickax!
Qwilleran was there, and he described it in his personal journal:
Saturday, May 31-Eddington Smith would turn over in his grave! He was such a modest, honorable gentleman, and he would not want his grandmother's deathbed confession known. But there are no secrets in Moose County, and it seemed to be generally known that Eddington's grandfather was not only a blacksmith but a weekend pirate. He tied a red bandanna on his head and sailed under the black flag, preying on ships that brought gold coins to the New World for the purchase of the beaver pelts that were so much in demand in Europe. The rumor was that the loot was buried in a certain spot, now covered with asphalt.
So, instead of a few hundred spectators, there were a few thousand. County highways as well as city streets were clogged with sensation-seekers. Whole families attended-with picnic lunches and campstools. Would the pirate's loot be found? Or was it just a rumor? Bets were being placed among friends-nothing over a quarter. The idea was to have something "on the nose" to report to future generations.
Then sirens were heard! The state police were escorting TV teams who had unexpectedly flown up from Down Below in chartered planes. The media in metropolitan areas were always alert for bizarre happenings in the boondocks. And in the digital age, buried treasure was bizarre.
The high school band arrived in a school bus and proceeded to tune up noisily and discordantly for the next half hour, exciting the crowd.
The police strung their yellow tape around the digging area. The dignitaries entered the viewing stand. The backhoe operator was perched in the vehicle's lofty seat. Cops and deputies with sidearms entered the area and stood facing the crowd.
The band played "Stars and Stripes Forever," hitting most of the right notes, and the backhoe jockeyed into position. The boom rose, and the bucket dropped with a resounding crack. Onlookers seemed to be holding their collective breath as the machine backed and lunged, bashed and scraped and shoveled. Finally a shout rose from the crowd. The bucket brought up an iron-strapped chest.
Chief Andrew Brodie stepped forward and opened it. He spread his hands palms-down in a negative gesture. The chest was empty!
Groans of disappointment quickly turned into roars of laughter. The good folk of Moose County liked a good laugh, even at their own expense, and this was a good joke. The only ones who weren't laughing and crowing and whooping were the out-of-town media, and this tickled the locals even more; they liked to hoax outsiders.
Even old-timers in Pickax could not remember a year with so much excitement. The old opera house had been restored for the performing arts! Plans were under way for the city's Sesquicentennial celebration! The local soccer team had taken the championship away from Bixby County. And the K Fund was building a bookstore.
It was not just a rumor. The ground had already been broken. Polly Duncan, who had directed the public library for twenty years, was resigning in order to manage the new venture. She had gone to Chicago twice to consult the brain trust at the K Fund, as the philanthropic foundation was known.
There was also an incident of an unfortunate nature, but it was being hushed up. The body of a well-dressed man without identification had been found in a wooded area near the beach. He had been shot, execution-style. It happened on the day of the groundbreaking, and rumormongers were determined to find some connection but failed.
Qwilleran walked home from the groundbreaking. His barn was only a few blocks from downtown, but it was screened by a dense patch of woods. Though only a home address to a pair of pampered felines, it was an architectural wonder to residents of Moose County. An octagonal structure a century old, it rose from the barnyard like an ancient castle, four stories high and built of fieldstone and weathered wood siding.
Originally it had stored wagonloads of apples waiting to be pressed into cider. Now the lofts and ladders were gone, and so was the interior gloom. Odd-shaped windows had been cut into the siding at various levels, and all exposed wood surfaces-beams, rafters, and plank walls-had been bleached to a honey color.
There was living space on three balconies, connected by a ramp that spiraled up the interior wall. And in the center of the ground floor, a giant white fireplace cube served the living areas, with stacks rising to the roof forty feet overhead.
To the cats Qwilleran would say, "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." In reply Koko would yowl and Yum Yum would sneeze delicately.
Now, as he arrived home from the groundbreaking, he looked for the welcoming committee sitting in the kitchen window. They were not there.
After unlocking the door, he found Yum Yum huddled on the blue cushion atop the refrigerator, looking worried. Koko paced the floor, looking uncomfortable.
"Something you ate?" Qwilleran asked in a jocular way.
Suddenly the cat uttered a bloodcurdling howl that started as a growl in his lower depths and ended in a shriek.
Qwilleran shuddered. He recognized Koko's "death howl"! Someone, somehow, somewhere was the victim of foul play.
There was no explanation, except that some cats, like some humans, seem to have psychic powers.
Koko and Yum Yum were a pair of purebred Siamese with pale fawn-colored bodies accented with seal-brown points. The male had a commanding appearance; the female was daintier and sweeter, although with a mind of her own. Both had the incredibly blue eyes of the breed.
Koko was the communicator of the family. He ordered meals, greeted guests, told them when to go home, and always, always spoke his mind, either in ear-piercing howls or an indecipherable ik-ik-ik.
They knew it was dinnertime and were throwing thought waves in Qwilleran's direction, sitting under the kitchen table and staring at their empty plates. He chopped turkey from the deli and watched them. Only once did Koko raise his head, and that was to stare at the wall telephone. A few seconds later, it rang. Polly Duncan, the chief woman in Qwilleran's life, was calling from Chicago, where she had been in conference with bigwigs at the Klingenschoen Foundation. She would be flying home the next morning. Qwilleran said he would pick her up at the airport and asked if she was bringing him something from the big city.
"Yes, and you'll love it!"
"What is it? Give me a clue."
"No clues. @ bienttt."
Later that evening, when Qwilleran was reading a thought-provoking treatise from the Wilson Quarterly, Koko jumped onto a bookshelf and yowled; he wanted Qwilleran to read aloud. They enjoyed the sound of his voice, and Yum Yum liked to snuggle up to his rib cage and feel the vibrations. Koko went so far as to select the title, and Qwilleran read the one about the owl and the pussycat who went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat, embellishing the lines with hoots, purrs, and meows. He thought, How can an animal who cannot read or understand the language ... how can he choose one book over some other? It was something to ponder.
Polly's plane was due to arrive at noon on Sunday. In Moose County all shuttle flights from Chicago-or anywhere else-were consistently an hour late, and friends and relatives who met the passengers were consistently on time. They liked to stand around and make ludicrous comments about the service. They said: "The tail fin was loose, and they'd run out of Scotch tape." "The pilot had to have her hair done." "They forgot to gas up and had to stop in Milwaukee...."
The banter was an old Moose County custom, handed down from pioneer days, when a sense of humor helped the settlers cope with discomforts, hardships, and even disasters.
When the brave little plane finally bounced up to the terminal, Polly was the last one to disembark, descending the ramp warily, as if she believed the myth that it was built of recycled bicycle parts.
Qwilleran stepped forward, took her carry-on, and said he would collect her other luggage-if they could find the can opener to open the baggage compartment. They were discreet in their personal greetings; gossips were always watching for a sign of romance between the librarian and the newsman.
"Bearable," she replied. "How was the groundbreaking?"
"Predictable. The chest was empty."
"It should go on permanent display in a glass case in the bookstore."
"Would you like to stop for brunch at Tipsy's?"
"I think not, dear," Polly said. "There has been much wining and dining, in addition to intensive work sessions. I just want to go home, hug my cats, have some cottage cheese and fruit, and get myself together for work tomorrow.... It's so peaceful here!"
They were driving to Indian Village, past sheep ranches, potato farms, and abandoned mine shafts. After a brief silence she added, "Benson is coming here this week."
"The architect of the bookstore. He wants to confer with the builders. And he's dying to see your barn. I described it, and he said it sounded architecturally impossible. He's a very interesting man." Qwilleran huffed into his moustache. Every time Polly left Pickax, she met an "interesting" man. First it was the horse trainer in Lockmaster, then the professor in Montreal, and the antiques dealer in Virginia, and now an architect in Chicago. Polly went on. "The K Fund thinks we should name the bookstore The Phoenix, after the mythical Egyptian bird that rose from the ashes and was reborn." "Are they serious? The locals would want to know why we named it after the capital of Arizona. I think we should have a countywide contest for a name."
"I think you're right, but I wanted to hear you say it.... Did you look in on Brutus and Catta?"
"They're happy, but I believe your cat-sitter is overfeeding them. As you asked, I filled your refrigerator with everything on your list." They were suddenly silent as they drove through the gates of Indian Village-past the gatehouse on the right, past the clubhouse on the left, and onto River Road with its clusters of condos. Qwilleran parked in front of Unit One of The Willows. "You run in and hug your cats," he said. "I'll take the luggage."
"Would you like to stay for some cottage cheese and fruit?" she asked in the soft, vibrant voice that had first attracted him. Cottage cheese was far from his favorite food. He hesitated a fraction of a second. "Yes, I believe I would."
Later in the afternoon Qwilleran took a legal pad and some yellow pencils-along with the Siamese and the cordless phone-to the gazebo. It was an octagonal summerhouse, screened on all eight sides-located in the bird garden a few yards from the barn. He drafted his Tuesday column; Yum Yum pursued her hobby of batting insects on the outside of the screen; Koko huddled on the floor and watched a family of seven crows strutting back and forth for his benefit. Were they the same ones that had visited the previous summer? Qwilleran wondered; all crows look alike, he thought. He called them the Bunkers, after Dr. Teresa Bunker, corvidologist. He considered her slightly nutty, like her cousin Joe, the WPKX meteorologist. Joe called himself Wetherby Goode and spiced his weather predictions with jokes and jingles.
Qwilleran's ruminations were interrupted by a phone call.
It was his friend Thornton Haggis-retired stonecutter, history buff, and indefatigable volunteer.
"Hi, Qwill! Are you busy? I have something for you-and something to discuss." "Where are you?" "I've been helping out at the art center. I can be there in five minutes."
"We're in the gazebo. Care for a glass of wine?" "Not tonight. We're having company. My wife invited the new pastor and a couple of people from the church." The art center was at the far end of the former apple orchard, connected by an old wagon trail, and soon Thornton's shock of white hair, like a dust mop, could be seen approaching. The Siamese watched and waited with eagerness; they had never figured out the purpose of that white thing on his head.
Thornton was clutching what looked like a dumbbell, and he set it down on a table. "This is for you! A belated birthday present." "It's spectacular!" Qwilleran said. "I can't believe you turned this on your lathe!" Wood turning was Thornton's latest hobby. "It's spalted olive wood. It's sort of a candy dish, but you can use it to feed the cats if you want to."
The Siamese were on the table, appraising the object with quivering noses.
Excerpted from The Cat Who Talked Turkey by Lilian Jackson Braun Copyright © 2005 by Lilian Jackson Braun. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 5, 2013
Ms. Braun is my number one favorite cat related mystery writer ever. When I reread her collection it is like visiting old friends. I especially love Koko and Yum Yum.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 6, 2013
Posted December 9, 2010
Posted May 2, 2009
The Cat Who Talked Turkey #26 by Lilian Jackson Braun
With Pickax getting ready for the groundbreaking of their new bookstore, and the nearby town of Brrr is making plans for their bicentennial, a body is found on Qwill's property. This occurence causes Koko to Yowl when another murder occurs in Michigan, another state away. Koko also gets excited when a mysterious array of wild turkeys appear after not being seen in over thirty years. Koko seems to want Qwill to read a book to he and Yum Yum that Koko can't stand. And, Yum Yum gets upset when she can't find her thimble and has everyone looking for it.
Forever Friends Rating 4 Stars by Teri
Until Next Year, See You Around The Book Nook
Publisher: Jove Pub.
Date: January 2005
Posted July 9, 2007
I own all of The Cat Who series and have read them multiple times. Fun, relaxing reads with good plots and murder sleuthing. BUT... the last few have been progressively more and more disappointing!! They don't have the same rhythm of writing, the characters don't seem the same, nothing 'feels' the same as all the others. I figure that they are having ghost writers do the books now and think it is time they quit before they loose face entirely. Don't plan on buying anymore of this wonderful series. Thanks to LJB for all the great ones she wrote!! I have very much enjoyed all up to the last few.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 12, 2006
I've read all the 'Cat Who' books, and the last few have been very disappointing. This one was the worst. In fact, the only interesting things in the most recent books have been the cats' antics. This one had no mystery and no charm. I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing did. Is it true that the series is now being ghostwritten? If so, get a new ghost.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 30, 2005
I felt that this last book will be the last for me, unfortunately. Ms. Braun is a superb writer but I was disappointed. I will enjoy going back and reading the oldies.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 22, 2005
To say I was disappointed in this latest book is an understatement. I don't believe Ms Braun is the writer. If she is no longer writing, then the editors should have done us the courtesy of finding a ghost writer who could produce a a novel similar in quality to Ms Braun's. 'Turkey' certainly was a turkey. This will be my last purchase of this series. I'll settle for re reading the earlier books. Ms Braun, I miss you.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 29, 2005
this book is not up to par with the regular 'cat who' mysteries. i understand that braun is getting on in years and if she doesn't have the energy to keep up with her earlier level of pace then i say (much to my regret), let the series die a peaceful death. Write one last big shebang and wrap everything up. devoted fans will be happy to just reread the series(trust me).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 1, 2005
As a long-time fan of The Cat Who Series, I was disappointed in The Cat Who Talked Turkey. In this case, the left overs are not better. A once-brilliant and beloved series has fallen flat, and I hate to see it go out with a whimper. Nothing -- and I mean nothing - is happening in this book. Sadly, I can't read another one in which the quirky characters, clever plots and delightful writing I once loved have all fizzled so profoundly. I do not believe that Ms. Braun is still writing these books - it must be a 'factory' situation, where a group of 'writers' is churning out the books. I believe this because the life has gone out of this unique and wonderful series. Jeanne NelsonWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 23, 2005
Lilian Jackson Braun has hit an all-time low with the latest installment of her usually entertaining 'Cat Who' series. This was a novel that just happened to have a murder in the very beginning and a murderer at the very end. When I finished this book I knew more about how to set up a book store than anything else. And isn't it about time the relationship between Qwill and Polly went beyond the hand-holding stage? How about 'The Cat Who Witnessed a Wedding'?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 5, 2005
Guess you'd classify this series as 'light reading,' but there is a place for that! I've read all previous books and am a fan of KoKo and YumYum as well as Mr. Q. This one didn't seem quite as exciting, but that didn't make me enjoy it any less! I've owned a Siamese and guess that alone makes me keep coming back for more!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 27, 2005
Having read all of her previous books & passed them on to my many cat-loving friends, I'm wondering if perhaps someone else was involved in the writing of this book. The strained dialog, the various descriptions...the general syntax is not up to snuff. Hate to say it but perhaps it's time to retire Mr. Q & his furry friends....Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2005
Sorely disappointed. I LOVE the Cat Who series, and found myself rather sad at the end. It was far too easily predictable. Braun, what're you doing to us? I refuse to believe that this book was written by Lilian Jackson Braun. She's an amazing writer and this was just... blah.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 19, 2004
This is one of the most entertaining series of storys in the world. Lilian has captured a place in my heart and with every book she takes me on a journey back to Moose County to visit with my friends. She puts a realism into her books that is often lacking in other series. New friends come, others go, and if there is a mystery then there's a mystery--and Koko and Quill will catch onto it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 9, 2004
I used to love Ms. Braun's 'Cat Who...' series, but lately the books have been declining in quality. 'The Cat Who Talked Turkey' is by far the worst of her books. I kept wondering when Qwill would get around to investigating the 'mystery,' but he never did, and the reader knows from the beginning 'whodunnit.' In the last few pages of the book, the culprits reveal themselves with no help from Qwilleran. Very blah, boring book, and not at all up to her earlier standards. If Ms. Braun's books were not already so popular, I doubt anyone would review this one at all favorably.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 14, 2004
I've been an avid fan of 'The Cat Who' series and have read all the books. The Cat Who Talked Turkey was a major disappointment for me. The mystery, what there was of it, was pushed to the background. Quill and his friends were too involved in the BRR bicentennial preparations and all the other social activities. When the author finally 'solves' the mystery, it was almost like an after thought and was a complete let down. I liked all the other 'Cat Who' books but I didn't like this one.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 14, 2004
I've read all The Cat Who.. books, most of them more than once. This latest book, The Cat Who Talked Turkey, was a big disappointment. It was a mystery afterthought, and mostly a chance to read about Qwill and his friends. The book wandered and one keeps waiting for the mystery to appear. There are interesting tidbits, but nothing to really hold the reader's attention. I've got it in my collection, but it's not one that I'll read again.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 11, 2004
I never miss reading the newest cat book, but I felt that the Turkey book was quite flat. After all, I am in love with Qwill just like all the other women in the world and enjoy reading his exciting adventures. This adventure didn't hold up to previous ones.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 4, 2004
I love this series, and believe I was one of the first to discover the charm of Quilleran and Koko. However, this is not one of Braun's best. I felt a need for more interaction between Quilleran and his cats; also, please, more socializing with the Pickax residents! (Scenes in a restaurant or at home with Quilleran and his friends can make me feel warm and comfortable all week). And, no more fiction within fiction. I felt cheated in being forced to read wasted moments about The Great Storm when I might have been spending that time with the present day characters (including the cats).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.