While awaiting the “Big One,” the three-day blizzard that usually heralds the winter season up north of everywhere in Moose County, Jim Qwilleran, zillionaire newspaper columnist and companion to the two wiliest detectives who ever lived, Siamese cats Koko and Yum Yum, joins the volunteer fire patrol for its 24/7 protection of the area’s historic mineshaft towers. In quick succession, another firewatcher is shot, a used bookstore left to Qwill burns, and a sports enthusiast, a curler, trips—with a little help—on the clubhouse stairs and dies. Meanwhile, a new tenant, a rare-book dealer with a surgically reconstructed face, has moved into Qwill’s condo complex; a saucy decorator and a lovely batik artist are arousing more of Qwill’s attention than his gal-pal Polly is comfortable with; and two town residents have left Pickax City in the dead of night, supposedly to elope, but actually to tattle on the mayor and slapdash builder Don Exbridge from a safe distance. Koko goes into full detective mode, yowling, pouncing, shredding, until Qwill finally takes heed and, after announcing the winners of his column’s haiku contest, ties three aging bad boys into murder and an elaborate Ponzi scheme.
Braun, who has virtually slapped a patent on writing about cats (this year’s The Cat Who Robbed a Bank and 22 others) cheerfully explains the arts of curling, batiking, and living the good, small-town life with cats who are smarter than you. All that’s needed to make the meow mix perfect is more mystery and a modicum of suspense.