Friday, March 22, 2013

The Cat Who Played Post Office

1987, Jove Books edition from later that year
Lilian Jackson Braun
The Cat Who Played Post Office
Probably bought newish for $4.99
Very worn paperback

The paperback of Brahms came out in June, while this was published in December.  Brahms was set in June, while this is set in July.  In fact, much of the book is a flashback after Qwill is run off the road while bicycling.  He has amnesia at first but Arch Riker visits and brings Qwill's memory back, allowing Braun to smoothly provide background information from Qwill's childhood to the recent present.  Qwill is described in the book as "fiftyish," but I think he doesn't turn 50 till a later book.

Qwill moves out of both the nameless city "Down Below" (in the lower, more urban half of the nameless state) and out of the forest cabin, and into Aunt Fanny's mansion in Pickax City, per the terms of the will.  He has to live in the county for five years, or lose his inheritance.  He's uncomfortable with wealth and his new luxurious lifestyle, so he plans to set up a foundation to distribute much of his money once he gets his hands on it.  (He's living off the not inconsiderable interest in the meantime.) 

During his brief visit to Down Below, he senses that Arch is unhappy, but Mrs. Cobb is the one to tell him that Rosie Riker is getting a divorce and buying Mrs. Cobb's antique shop.  Mrs. Cobb moves into the mansion and becomes Qwill's chef/housekeeper/Edwina-McMahon.  (She thinks he's hilarious.)  Arch pays Qwill a couple visits, and hits it off with cranky scene-stealing interior designer Amanda Goodwinter.  It's a book with a lot of Goodwinters, not just Amanda and Dr. Melinda, but Junior and his father Senior at the very Victorian local newspaper, and the brother and sister lawyers Alexander and Penelope.  There are a few shocking scandals with the last pair, partly to do with a missing housemaid named Daisy.

Five years ago, Daisy did a wild mural in the servants' quarters, including initials of men she was involved with.  One is R.R., which Qwill notes could be either a President or a movie star.  So this must be set at least in 1981.  Qwill points out that it's the last quarter of the twentieth century, and in the last book Aunt Fanny was a "donut girl" in World War I, but that doesn't really help narrow it down much.

Braun has a lot to juggle, but I don't see her phoning it in yet, even with two books in one year.  So far the move to the country and Qwill's wealth haven't done any harm to the series.  The title this time refers to Koko's habit of bringing Qwill pertinent pieces of mail, including a five-year-old postcard.

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