The Cat Who Went up the Creek (The Cat Who... Series #24)

The Cat Who Went up the Creek (The Cat Who... Series #24)

by Lilian Jackson Braun

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Prizewinning reporter Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum, must solve a complicated caper while on vacation in this charming cozy mystery in the New York Times bestselling Cat Who series.

Jim Qwilleran is enjoying his stay at the Nutcracker Inn in Black Creek. His two Siamese, Koko and Yum Yum, don’t seem quite as pleased with the accommodations...though Koko does enjoy keeping a keen eye on the squirrels and other local wildlife. Then, while Koko’s eagerly watching some jumping trout, he spots something else: a body floating downstream. When it’s revealed that the victim was a guest at the inn—and had nuggets of gold hidden in his shoes—Qwill dives into the case. And if he and the cats don’t solve it soon, they’re going to be up the creek without a paddle...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780515134384
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/31/2002
Series: Cat Who... Series , #24
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 140,243
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.74(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

The history of Lilian Jackson Braun is perhaps as exciting and mysterious as her novels. Between 1966 and 1968, she published three novels to critical acclaim: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, and The Cat Who Turned On and Off.  In 1966, the New York Times labeled Braun, “the new detective of the year.” Then, for reasons unknown, the rising mystery author disappeared from the publishing scene. It wasn’t until 1986 that Berkley Publishing Group reintroduced Braun to the public with the publication of an original paperback, The Cat Who Saw Red. Within two years, Berkley released four new novels in paperback and reprinted the three mysteries from the sixties. Since then, G.P. Putnam’s Sons has published seventeen additional novels in the Cat Who series. Braun passed away in 2011.


North Carolina

Date of Birth:


Date of Death:

June 4, 2011

Place of Birth:


Place of Death:

South Carolina


Graduated from high school at age 16

Read an Excerpt

chapter one

It was Skeeter Week in Moose County, 400 miles north of everywhere. Armies of young enthusiastic mosquitoes rose from woodland bogs and deployed about the county, harassing tourists. Permanent residents were never bothered. And, after a while, even newcomers developed an immunity, attributed to minerals in the drinking water and in the soil that grew such flavorful potatoes. As for the summer people, they bought quantities of insect repellent and went on praising the perfect weather, the wonderful fishing, and the ravishing natural beauty of Moose County.

One morning in mid-June a columnist for the Moose County Something was working against deadline, writing his annual thousand-word salute to Skeeter Week. With tongue in cheek he reported readers' exaggerated claims: A farmer in Wildcat had trained a corps of skeeters to buzz him awake every morning in time for milking. A music teacher in Pickax City had a pet skeeter that buzzed Mendelssohn's "Spinning Song."

He was no backwoods journalist. He was James Mackintosh Qwilleran, former crime writer for major newspapers Down Below, as the locals called all states except Alaska. A freak inheritance had brought him north to Pickax, the county seat (population 3,000). It also made him the richest man in the northeast central United States. (It was a long story.)

He cut a striking figure as he went about, interviewing and making friends for the paper. He was fiftyish, tall, well built, with an enviable head of graying hair and a pepper-and-salt moustache of magnificent proportions. But there was more to the man than an instantly recognizable moustache; he had brooding eyes and a sympathetic mien and a willingness to listen that encouraged confidences. Yet, his friends, readers, and fellow citizens had come to realize that the sober aspect masked a genial personality and sense of humor. And everyone knew that he lived alone in a converted apple barn, with two Siamese cats.

Qwilleran wrote his column, "Straight from the Qwill Pen," on an old electric typewriter at the barn, closely supervised by his male cat. As he ripped the last page out of the machine, Kao K'o Kung, with an internal growl, let him know the phone was going to ring.

It rang, and a familiar woman's voice said anxiously, "Sorry to bother you, Qwill."

"No bother. I've just finished-"

"I need to talk to you privately," she interrupted, "while my husband is out of town."

Qwilleran had a healthy curiosity and a journalist's taste for intrigue. "Where's he gone?"

"To Bixby, for plumbing fixtures. It may be foolish of me, but-"

"Don't worry. I'll be there in a half hour."

"Come to the cottage in the rear."

Lori and Nick Bamba were the young couple who had come to his rescue when he was a greenhorn from Down Below getting bitten by mosquitoes. She was a small-town postmaster then; he was chief engineer at the state prison. They had two ambitions: to raise a family and to be innkeepers.

When Qwilleran had an opportunity to recommend them for the new Nutcracker Inn located in Black Creek, he was happy to do so. In a way, he felt like the godfather of the Nutcracker. If he had not been the sole heir of Aunt Fanny Klingenschoen (who was not even related to him)...And if he had not been totally overwhelmed by the size of the bequest (billions) and the responsibility it entailed...And if he had not established the Klingenschoen Foundation to use the money for the good of the community...And if the K Fund had not purchased the old Limburger mansion to refurbish as a country inn...

Such were his ruminations as he drove the miles to Black Creek, a virtual ghost town until the Nutcracker Inn brought it back to life. The renovation had won national publicity; some well-known names had appeared on the guest register; new shops were opening in the quaint little downtown.

Qwilleran had seen the Victorian house when the last eccentric Limburger was alive. A section of the ornamental iron fence had been sold to a passing stranger; a broken window was a Halloween trick when the old man refused to treat; bricks from the crumbling steps were used to throw at stray dogs. In Qwilleran's opinion, the only upbeat feature was a cuckoo clock in the front hall, its crazy bird popping out and announcing the time with monotonous cheer.

Now, approaching Black Creek, he planned his strategy. In Moose County, where everyone knew the make and model of everyone's vehicle, his own five-year-old brown van was especially conspicuous. It would hardly do to be seen calling on the innkeeper's wife while the innkeeper was in Bixby buying plumbing supplies. So the brown van was parked in the main lot of the inn with the luncheon guests, after which the driver ambled about the grounds feeding the squirrels. Not having any peanuts, he had brought cocktail nuts, and the squirrels showed no objection to pecans and cashews, slightly salted.

The Lori Bamba who admitted him to the cottage was not the sunny personality he had known. The golden braids coiled around her head seemed drab, and her eyes were not as blue. She offered him coffee and a black walnut cookie, and he accepted.

"How are the Bambas' brilliant brats?" he asked to add a light touch.

"The boys are in summer camp, and Lovey is with her grandma in Mooseville. We get together Sundays."

"That's good. So what is the serious matter on your mind?"

"Well...I always thought innkeeping would be my kind of work: meeting people, making them happy, providing a holiday atmosphere. Instead I feel gloomy."

"Is your health okay?'

"At my last physical my doctor said I'd live to be a hundred and ten." She said it without a smile. "The funny thing is-when I go to Mooseville on Sundays or into Pickax on errands, I feel normal. I think there's something depressing about the building itself! I've always been sensitive to my environment, and I believe the theory that old houses absorb the personality of those who've lived there."

He nodded. "I've heard that!" He avoided saying whether he believed it.

"Nick says I'm being silly. He says it's all in my head. It's a grand old building, and the redecorating is fabulous, but I feel a dark cloud hanging over the premises."

What could he say? He thought of the Dunfield house at the beach, where a man had been murdered. Realty agents could neither rent nor sell it, although its unsavory past had been suppressed. He said, "I wish there were something I could do. I'd be willing to spend a few days here-to see if I pick up any adverse vibrations."

"Would you, Qwill?" she cried. "You could have a suite on the top floor and bring the cats. You'd be our guest!"

"No, no! The story would be that I'm researching material for my column. All charges would go on my expense account. What meals are available?"

"Breakfast and dinner. We have an excellent chef-from Palm Springs. Also, the suites have a small refrigerator and a coffee maker. Would you like to see one of them?"

"Won't be necessary. I had the grand tour when the inn opened last fall. Is the black cat still here?"

"Nicodemus? Oh, yes! The guests love him; he's so sweet in spite of his wicked eyes!" He was sleek and black with the most unusual eyes; they were triangular and had a stare like a laser beam. "He's our rodent control officer," Lori said with some of her old enthusiasm. "He doesn't catch mice; he just terrifies them. Do you like canoeing, Qwill? We have a few canoes available down at the creek."

In his younger days Qwilleran had often thought, If I can't play second base for the Chicago Cubs, or write for The New York Times, or act on the Broadway stage...I'd like to be an investigator. And now even so nebulous a mystery as Lori's "dark cloud" piqued his curiosity. Furthermore...

Qwilleran relished a frequent change of address. His early experience as a globetrotting correspondent had given him a chronic case of wanderlust. The Black Creek venture would be timely; the chief woman in his life was leaving on vacation. Polly Duncan, director of the Pickax public library, planned to tour museum villages on the East Coast in the company of her sister, who lived in Cincinnati. Qwilleran wondered about these sisterly flings. In Canada the previous year they had met a highly personable Quebec professor, and he had been corresponding with Polly ever French! She said it helped her brush up on her idioms.

Qwilleran would drive her to the airport in the morning, but tonight there would be a farewell dinner in the Mackintosh Room at the hotel.

As soon as they were seated, he asked the usual fatuous questions. "Are you all packed? Are you excited?"

"I hate to leave Brutus and Catta, but there's a cat-sitter in the neighborhood who'll come in twice a day to give them food and attention. This morning I wrote a limerick about Catta while I was showering: A female feline named Catta/is getting fatta and fatta/but she's pretty and purry/and funny and furry/so what does an ounce or two matta?"

"I couldn't have done 'betta' myself," he said, with apologies. "If we announce another limerick contest this summer, will you be one of the judges?"

"I'd love to! Meanwhile, what are you going to do while I'm away?"

"Read trashy novels and give wild parties, if I can find anyone who likes wild parties....But seriously, I plan to spend a couple of weeks at the Nutcracker Inn in search of new material for my column."

"I wish you were coming with me, Qwill."

"Maybe next year, but no museums! I get all the education I want on the 'Qwill Pen' beat."

"We could go to the Italian hill country and read poetry, far from the madding crowd."

"The madding crowd is everywhere these days, Polly-taking snapshots and buying postcards. And by the way, when you send me postcards, bear in mind that the picture on the front is less important than the message on the back! More news! More news!"

His own words would ring in his ears for the next two weeks; Polly always cooperated with zeal.

But first Qwilleran had to get her to the airport for the 8:00 A.M. shuttle flight to Minneapolis. After tearful good-byes to Brutus and Catta and a race to the airport, the flight was delayed because the pilot of the shuttle had not arrived. According to the airport manager, the pilot's baby-sitter was ill, and she was having difficulty finding a substitute. Eventually she arrived and passengers were reassured that they would make their connections.

When the plane finally taxied to the runway, lifted off and disappeared into the sky, the groundlings watched it go, as if witnesses to a miracle.

On the way home Qwilleran pulled off the highway to make some phone calls. Moose County was the first in the state to prohibit use of a cell phone while operating a vehicle. The county commissioners expected enough revenue from traffic tickets to build a soccer stadium.

First he called Andrew Brodie, the Pickax chief of police. "Andy, I'll be out of town for a few weeks, and I have a bottle of twelve-year-old single-malt Scotch that's too good to leave around for burglars. How about coming over for a nightcap?"

The chief, always interested in crime prevention, said he would be there at 10:00 P.M.

Next Qwilleran phoned Junior Goodwinter, the young managing editor of the Moose County Something. "Junior, I'll be faxing the copy for my next few columns. I'll be crossing the Egyptian desert by dromedary."

"So soon? You just got back from doing Paris by skateboard!"

"I have to keep my column fresh, you know."

"Don't let it get too fresh," Junior warned. "We have a conservative readership."

On the way home, Qwilleran made a mental list of things to do and items to pack for the trek to Black Creek, half an hour from home:

Notify post office.
Notify attorney.
Notify janitorial service.
Empty refrigerator.
Pack clothes, writing materials, books, magazines.
Pack cats' commode and two large bags of cat litter, two plates and two water bowls, vitamin drops, grooming essentials, Koko's harness and leash, old paisley necktie.
Take trail bike and Silverlight.

The Siamese were waiting for him apprehensively; they knew! They sensed a change in their comfortable lives.

"You're going on vacation!" Qwilleran assured them. "You're to be guests at a glamorous inn that has room service and a chef from Palm Springs-or Palm Beach. There's a resident cat named Nicodemus who's very friendly. And you can even go up the creek in a canoe."

The Siamese, who subscribed to the home-sweet-home ethic, were always vastly inconvenienced by his restlessness, however. Silent and motionless and disapproving, they sat in a shaft of sunlight slanting through a high barn window. It made the pale fur bodies glisten, and their dark brown masks and ears stand out in sharp and defiant contrast. (Brown legs and tails were tucked out of sight.)

"Well, for your information, you're going anyway," Qwilleran told them.

Yum Yum, the gentle little female, squeezed her eyes noncommittally. Koko, the lordly male, who knew his name was really Kao K'o Kung, slapped the floor with his tail. When their midday snack was placed in the feeding station, they ignored it until Qwilleran was out of the room.

Table of Contents

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"As enjoyable as the past twenty-three." —Los Angeles Times

"Irresistable." —Booklist

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The Cat Who Went up the Creek (The Cat Who... Series #24) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It ended in thin air! Did they catch the killer?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anonymous 3 months ago
Anonymous 12 months ago
dele2451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The cats and Q are as cute as ever, but I think I wouldn't have enjoyed this one as much if I didn't already "know" the background of most of the characters from reading earlier books included in this series. I'll always enjoy reading Braun's whimsical smalltown mysteries filled with colorful characters but, if you are new to her "Cat Who" works, I wouldn't recommend starting with this one.
owleye01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a fast read. It was my first in the many "Cat who..." books by this author, and it was mildly entertaining. It wasn't very well written, but for a rainy day read, it'll do.
MeriJenBen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Qwill spends time at the newly refurbished Nutcracker Inn, sees the Pirates of Penzance, meets a nature photographer and a pediatrician and discovers foul play in the Black Forrest.I really don't expect too much from the "Cat Who..." books, and mostly, they struggle to meet my low expectations. This one is no exception. Tree Pirates? Really? Two dead bodies and the most you can come up with is Tree Pirates? Oh, and the hilarity of a mustache cup collectors club? It put me to sleep, which is what I wanted it to do, but most of the time, that's not the goal of a mystery novel. That, and the more I read them, the more I realize how unflattering the potrayal of women are in Braun's books. Young, unmarried women are all flirty golddiggers, young married women are prone to dehabilitating personality quirks, and older unmarried women are as fickle as teenagers. Blech.
glowboat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I unabashedly love this series! It's it a mystery (which is good), it's a cozy (which is even better), AND it's about brilliant, imperious cats (which is the best of All!)! This one takes us to the Nutcracker Inn in Black Creek, where Qwilleran is passing the time while Polly Duncan is away on summer holidays. Before too long Koko has 'found' another body...and a new mystery ensues. I admit that this is one of my least favorites in the series. There really doesn't seem to be much excitement about the crimes in the book, and they don't get mentioned enough to make their resolution smooth, or even interesting. On the other hand, we get reaquainted with some recurring characters: the Bamba's, most notably as well as "Bushy", the photographer, and Brodie, the police chief. By now these are all old friends of ours, and it's lovely to see them again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting mystery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the book very much. A great who done it
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mysterybuffMS More than 1 year ago
This was the first one i read in the series and I thought it was kind of boring. They spent over a page talking about mostache cups and the mystery was sorta weak. All ana all, it was a mediocre book at the least.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first cat who... book i'd ever read--it was awesome!! some thinks it lacks more of a mystery novel, I enjoyed it quite a lot!!! I would definitely reccommend this book--no questions asked.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I hate assigning stars in a review. Must the novel be another 'War and Peace' to deserve five stars? Or should it be judged in its own category? I'm voting for the latter in this review. This 'Cat Who...' book is written in the same light, charming, G-rated fashion as the others. All the Cat Who books are written with a nostalgic style reminiscent of how life was depicted sometime around the Kennedy administration. They are the kind of books that if you found your girl friend raving about them, you would smile with the knowledge that she is wholesome and in touch with her inner child. You also would not ask her to bring anything complicated to the Thanksgiving pitch-in.
Guest More than 1 year ago
How does she do it? After 23 fast paced attention grabbing stories Ms. Braun does it again with number 24. The little 'teaser' regarding the post cards from Polly was a great twist. It made Polly seem more flexible, with a 'fun' side, and not as stiff and humorless as she appeared to be in previous stories. I also loved the unexpected reason for Doyle's murder. Totally caught me off guard. One question though. What happened to Lori Bamba's restaurant? Ms. Braun usually refers back to these types of details when her characters 'move on' to a new venture (i.e. Nick & Lori's Inn on Breakfast Island was destroyed in a major storm). I was only introduced to Ms. Braun's 'The Cat Who' series three years ago. Since that time I have purchased every book in the series (and have read them all several times over). THANK YOU MS. BRAUN FOR MANY LOVELY AND ENJOYABLE EVENINGS.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We were disappointed in this mystery. We've listened to several other Braun 'Cat' mysteries, but this one wasn't up to par. Polly's sending 'strange' postcards to Qwill from various vacation spots, deliberately mentioning a male companion who joined her and her sister; the cats weren't involved as much as usual, and the Pickax flavor wasn't evident in this tale.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read all of The Cat Who...books several times each and I was very disappointed with this book. Braun's usual attention to details was missing as well as her wonderful storytelling that makes you feel like a close friend. The whole Polly thing was just weird! I was glad I checked it out of the library and didn't buy it. I will not waste my time reading this book a second time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can hardly wait for the latest 'Cat Who' to come out, since I know I'll have a day of fun reading! But this one seemed to me to be written by someone who didn't really know Qwill and his companions all that well. Lori Bamba was his part time secretary at one time. He certainly could have visited her without anyone thinking twice. What happened to her Spoonery resturant? And we all know she and Nick were already inn keepers once, on Breakfast Island! Koko would normally having been setting up all sorts of signals that they had to visit the Nutcracker Inn, rather than acting like he didn't want to go. And he wasn't giving Qwill his normal clues in Book Titles. Even Qwill's moustache didn't seem to get much of a workout! It was an OK mystery, but I felt like a visitor to Pickax, rather than a citizen, wrote this one!