Jim Qwilleran, columnist for the Moose County Something and caretaker of sleuthing cats Koko and Yum Yum (The Cat Who Brought Down The House, 2003, etc.), takes on amateur theater, valuable old books, and an ugly landmark.
The Pickax theater club is in the throes of presenting The Importance of Being Earnest, starring newcomer Alden Wade, when Ronnie Dickson, playing Algernon, dies in a car accident, under the influence of drugs. But everyone who knew Ronnie, including his old friend Alden Wade, knew he didn’t do drugs. Qwill does his wondering about Ronnie’s death on his own, since his erstwhile companion Polly Duncan is preoccupied with the opening of the Pirate’s Chest, her new bookstore. Seeking someone to appreciate his moustache and his wit, he cultivates Violet Hibbard, mistress of the historic but ugly Hibbard House. Violet, however, has her eyes on another eligible bachelor. Meanwhile, some valuable books are stolen out from under the nose of the new bookstore’s “bibliocat.” As the case meanders to its climax, Qwill gives a slide show, serves drinks to various friends and neighbors, and writes columns (the texts as usual appearing in the novel for the edification of the faithful). Koko’s clues this time take the form of banana peels that, mercifully, Qwill figures out before he breaks his neck.
Fans will go bananas; others may go Wilde.