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Craig's Book Club
Book Review

Spotlight on: The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun by Robert Kaplow


To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


Buy The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun by Robert Kaplow Robert Kaplow, The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun
(audiobook read by Arte Johnson)

If you're sick of walking through the mystery section of your local bookstore and being inundated by the sheer number of Cat Who... mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun (there were almost 30 at last count), then Robert Kaplow's The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun just may be the book for you. Combining satire with clever plotting, Kaplow has made more than a simple parody -- he's made a laugh-out-loud reading riot.

Best known for his other, more serious novels for young adults like Me and Orson Welles, Robert Kaplow is also the man behind "Moe Moskowitz and the Punsters" from NPR's Morning Edition. In The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun, he gives the wit and imagination he has brought to many a bored commuter's morning drivetime to the mystery novel, sure to be a hit with those same commuters in the form of the audiobook read by Arte Johnson (who gets to refer to himself within the text, yet another brilliant idea).

"America's most beloved author," Lilian Jackson Braun's headless body has been found in a public restroom (so much for being beloved). Her friend, children's book author James Qafka, and his two preternaturally intelligent cats, Yong-Ting and Poon-Tang, get involved in the solution of her murder. This leads him and his assistant Sally into an underworld the opposite of the one Braun depicted in novels like The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern. The jokes fly fast and furious in the spirit of Airplane!, with loads of quirky characters and even an entire chapter written around a single pun.

I've read a couple of these books myself over the years, but you don't have to in order to enjoy Kaplow's take. He really lets his imagination run free, and The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun is liable to bring a flush to the cheeks of Braun's regular readers. The book is full of sex, whether it is being done or just talked about (he even refers to it himself when he speaks of catching up readers who are skipping around for the dirty bits). But sex and parody of Braun's world would wear thin eventually, so Kaplow offers up a side mystery for those of us who actually enjoy a little story with our parody (something fellow mystery parody ...Go to Helena Handbasket sorely missed). It involves Harry Houdini, Dashiell Hammett, Arthur Conan Doyle, John Huston, and the sexually explicit diaries of Mary Astor, connecting them all in a plot reminiscent of The Maltese Falcon: the search for a raccoon with connections to The Honeymooners.

There is also a scathingly funny portrait of author Philip Roth, who manages to find anti-Semitism in the pages of Braun and then goes on to insult practically every other living author in addition to proclaiming how every one of his own novels should have won the Pulitzer Prize. Kaplow leaves practically no stone uninsulted in The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun, making it a sure-fire humor bet for those who don't mind a big dollop of tastelessness with their parody (one character's gaseous emissions "wailed like an artillery shell"). Arte Johnson's reading of the audiobook only makes the blend sweeter, levying a snide George Guidall impersonation (the reader of all the Lilian Jackson Braun audiobooks) along with his insightful reading (and a chance to do some of his old Laugh-In voices again).


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