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Literature / The Cat Who... Series

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The Cat Who... series consists of a number of murder mysteries written by Lilian Jackson Braun, starring veteran crime journalist Jim Qwilleran (Yes, that's how it's spelled) and the two Siamese cats he adopts, Kao K'o Kung (abbreviated to Koko) and Yum Yum. The series begins with his life in an unnamed city as he is given assignments on odd beats, such as art or food criticism, and uncovers murders. Being what he is at heart, Qwill can never leave well enough alone once his mustache starts twitching....

In the fifth book, though, the series moves away from the city and into the northern part of America, into an area known as Moose County. Initially, he's visiting for a vacation, but things take a turn for the worse when his "aunt" Fanny Klingenschoen is the Body of the Week. He then, after solving the crime, inherits her money, with the provision that he live in Moose County for five years (a period which officially ends at the start of book 13).

The series began in the late 1960s, but after three books, there was an 18-year break before any more titles were published. The break ended when Braun's second husband Earl Bettinger, whom she married well after she wrote the first books, read them and encouraged her to give it another try. Since then, future books in the series have been dedicated to "Earl Bettinger, The Husband Who..." The final book in the series, The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, was published in 2007. Another installment, The Cat Who Smelled Smoke, was scheduled for 2008 and later 2009, but then canceled by the publisher. Born in 1913, author Lilian Jackson Braun was nearly 100 years old and her advanced age prevented her from completing the book. She passed away in 2011, leaving the series unfinished.

See also Midnight Louie, a series by Carole Nelson Douglas that draws much influence from this one, featuring a hard-boiled feline private eye as a first-person narrator at times. Not to be remotely confused with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, an entirely different sort of book by Robert A. Heinlein.

    Novels in this series 
  • #1: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (1966)
    • Summary 
  • #2: The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern (1967)
    • Summary 
  • #3: The Cat Who Turned On and Off (1968)
    • Summary 
  • #4: The Cat Who Saw Red (1986)
    • Summary 
  • #5: The Cat Who Played Brahms (1987)
    • Summary 
  • #6: The Cat Who Played Post Office (1988)
    • Summary 
  • #7: The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare (1988)
    • Summary 
  • #8: The Cat Who Sniffed Glue (1988)
    • Summary 
  • #9: The Cat Who Went Underground (1989)
    • Summary 
  • #10: The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts (1990)
    • Summary 
  • #11: The Cat Who Lived High (1990)
    • Summary 
  • #12: The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal (1991)
    • Summary 
  • #13: The Cat Who Moved a Mountain (1991)
    • Summary 
  • #14: The Cat Who Wasn't There (1992)
    • Summary 
  • #15: The Cat Who Went Into the Closet (1993)
    • Summary 
  • #16: The Cat Who Came to Breakfast (1994)
    • Summary 
  • #17: The Cat Who Blew the Whistle (1995)
    • Summary 
  • #18: The Cat Who Said Cheese (1996)
    • Summary 
  • #19: The Cat Who Tailed a Thief (1997)
    • Summary 
  • #20: The Cat Who Sang for the Birds (1998)
    • Summary 
  • #21: The Cat Who Saw Stars (1999)
    • Summary 
  • #22: The Cat Who Robbed a Bank (2000)
    • Summary 
  • #23: The Cat Who Smelled a Rat (2001)
    • Summary 
  • #24: The Cat Who Went Up the Creek (2002)
    • Summary 
  • #25: The Cat Who Brought Down the House (2003)
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  • #26: The Cat Who Talked Turkey (2004)
    • Summary 
  • #27: The Cat Who Went Bananas (2005)
    • Summary 
  • #28: The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell (2006)
    • Summary 
  • #29: The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers (2007)
    • Summary 

    Related books by Braun 

  • The Cat Who Had 14 Tales (1988)
    • An anthology of fourteen short stories involving various cats, including two set in Moose County, though they don't feature Qwill or his cats. The two are:
      • "The Mad Museum Mouser": Features Homer Tibbet, Rhoda Finney and the museum cat Marmalade.
      • "Tipsy and the Board of Health": Set during the Depression era, it tells the origin story of Tipsy, the cat who inspired the name of Tipsy's Tavern.
  • Short and Tall Tales: Moose County Legends Collected by James Mackintosh Qwilleran (2002)
    • Collected anecdotes and regional folklore from residents of Moose County. This is the same in-universe book that Qwill began work on in book 19 of the main series.
  • The Private Life of the Cat Who ...: Tales of Koko and Yum Yum (from the Journals of James Mackintosh Qwilleran) (2004)
    • Collected anecdotes about Koko and Yum Yum. This is the same in-universe book that Qwill discusses working on in book #26.

Tropes featured in these books include:

    open/close all folders 

    In general 

  • Anyone Can Die: Being beloved by the readers will not save a character from dying. Sometimes they're murdered, but there are also fatal car accidents (Liz Hart in book #28, during a storm), heart attacks (Eddington Smith in book #23), and just plain old age (Homer Tibbet in book #28, who dies in his sleep).
  • Author Appeal: Lilian Jackson Braun loved cats, and owned her own set of Siamese — who were always named Koko and Yum Yum.
  • Author Avatar: Qwilleran could represent Lilian Jackson Braun herself to a large degree. Like Qwilleran, she had no children, and enjoyed living a simple life without much public attention, despite her wealth and accomplishments. That, and the fact that both live(d) with Siamese cats.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Qwill and Polly always end their phone conversations with "à bientôt".
  • Bizarrchitecture: To an extent, Qwill's summer home is this; it's a converted apple barn on the Klingenschoen property, which many characters compare with the Guggenheim Museum.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: If Koko doesn't fit this trope in cat form, then who would?
    • Qwill himself also has several characteristics of the trope.
  • Busman's Holiday: Qwilleran is a well-known crime journalist who keeps trying to branch out into other topics. He's never successful, even when he's just trying to take a vacation.
  • Cartwright Curse: Iris Cobb was married three times, and all three of her husbands predeceased her — her first one (and the father of her only son) died of food poisoning, C. C. Cobb was murdered in the book where he and Iris were introduced, and Herb Hackpole died in a fire he set just a day or so after their wedding in book 7.
  • Cat Stereotype: The Siamese stereotype of being mean is subverted with Koko; like real life Siamese, he tends to be bright, friendly, inquisitive, and mouthy.
  • Character Tics: Qwill tends to finger his luxuriant mustache when he's thinking. Apparently this can sometimes get a little violent, as he's occasionally described as "pounding" the mustache.
  • The City vs. the Country: Qwilleran is a big-city journalist who moves to a small town in Moose County under the terms of his Aunt Fanny's will. Several early novels in the series detail his adjustment (and that of his cats).
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Elizabeth Hart sort of appears this way to the natives of Moose County. She's very intelligent, and rather down-to-earth despite her wealthy background, but she's got very different interests than most of the other characters.
  • The Confidant: Qwill. His folksy, down-to-Earth style generally causes even the most reluctant interview subjects to open to him, allowing him to delve deep into historical research with elderly figures who otherwise might clam up. It also comes in useful when it comes to possible suspects in the murder investigations he inevitably finds himself involved in.
  • Cool Old Guy: Homer Tibbett, the nonagenarian expert on local history.
  • Cool Old Lady: Fanny Klingenschoen, Qwill's mother's best friend, who leaves him her millions.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Don Exbridge, founder of XYZ Enterprises, is usually regarded this way In-Universe. It's proven correct when book #23 (The Cat Who Smelled a Rat) sees him caught out as participating in a Ponzi scheme.
  • Corrupt Politician: Gregory Blythe, the mayor of Pickax, mockingly referred to as "Hizzonor" for most of the series. He's eventually voted out as a result of the events of book #23 (The Cat Who Smelled a Rat), which saw him arrested for his involvement in a Ponzi scheme, and replaced with Amanda Goodwinter, the local Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Cozy Mystery: After four books set in the city, the rest developed into Cozies, as Qwill remains an amateur sleuth but moves into a small town where everybody knows everybody else. Even the first four books could really be said to fit the bill, as they were only slightly edgier and still met the definition of "with no graphic violence, profanity, or explicit sex."
  • Detective Animal: Left ambiguously open — Koko gives clues that in hindsight point directly at the criminal, though it is never made clear whether the clues are coincidental.
  • Disappeared Dad: Qwill's father Dana Qwilleran, whom Qwill never met; he died before Qwill was born because he was shot while trying to rob a bank out of desperation. It's not until book 22 (The Cat Who Robbed a Bank) that Qwill even learns his name through letters his mother sent to Francesca Klingenschoen, and is rather furious when he discovers the truth about the man's fate.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: Overlaps with Kick the Dog. Arch Riker, Qwill's lifelong best friend, is mentioned to be fond of antique tin, and at one time had a sizable collection. Book 23 (The Cat Who Smelled a Rat) reveals that his first wife managed to get it in their divorce settlement and promptly opened her own shop — "Tin 'n Stuff" — to sell it.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Qwill, prior to the start of the series, although he has sworn off alcohol by the time the first book begins.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first three books in the series were written in The '60s, and then nothing else was done with it until almost 20 years after the publication of the third book. Those who were introduced to the series via the later novels may find the originals somewhat odd; the books were written to be contemporary, meaning that overnight Qwill jumped from 1968 to 1986. The first three books contain, for instance, 1960s slang terms which may be a bit jarring to a modern reader.
  • Embarrassing First Name:
    • James Mackintosh Qwilleran had his name legally changed, as revealed in book #16 (The Cat Who Came to Breakfast), when he admits the truth to Liz Hart when she's doing a numerological reading of his name. Few other characters — possibly none other than Arch Riker — know that his birth name was Merlin James Qwilleran. Book 22 reveals that it came from his mother being a fan of Arthurian Legend.
    • Polly's real name is Hippolyta, and she mentions that her "poor sister Ophelia" had a rough time of it in school. Her father was a Shakespearean devotee, and gave all of his children names from the plays.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Every book features Koko the Siamese doing something odd which eventually leads to Qwilleran having a Eureka Moment. How plausible Koko's behavior is, either taken at face value or with the strong hint he's trying to give clues, varies considerably.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Police Chief Andrew Brodie, like many characters in the series, is of Scottish descent and is known to give stirring bagpipe performances at public events, weddings, and funerals.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Qwill's hyper-intelligent Siamese cat Koko has shades of this. He especially dislikes the gold-digging Melinda Goodwinter, who was intent on marrying Qwill for his money and later tried to kill another woman whom she felt was in her way, and expressed this dislike quite often.
  • Fictional Document: The Moose County Something and its predecessor, the Pickax Picayune; also City of Brotherly Crime, the book Qwill wrote when he was younger.
  • Food Porn: Qwill, a lover of good eats, is often treated to great dishes that are described in scrumptious detail.
  • Friend on the Force: Andrew Brodie, police chief for Pickax, is this for Qwill; he's also one of the very few people whom Qwill has trusted with the secret of Koko's strange abilities.
  • Gender Scoff: The lead character James Mackintosh Qwilleran extends this to a species scoff, shouting "Cats!" when his Siamese Koko or Yum Yum behave in ways that frustrate him.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: As noted above, the first three novels were written back in the 1960s, and Qwilleran smoked a pipe, which was considered to add character. Flash-forward to the 1980s when new books in the series started being published again. A lot more was known about the dangers of smoking and Qwilleran was convinced to drop the pipe. Not only that, but once he stopped smoking, he developed an aversion to tobacco smoke in all forms.
  • Greasy Spoon: Lois's Luncheonette is outright described as this in the narrative.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jealousy is described as Polly Duncan's primary flaw. Once Qwilleran starts dating her, he is wholly committed to her. This doesn't stop Polly, however, from being jealous of very nearly any other woman whom he spends time with, or who expresses an interest in him. (It also doesn't stop her from occasionally going out with other men.)
  • Happily Married: Arch Riker and his second wife Mildred; the Tibbetts; Junior and Jodie Goodwinter; and a few of the other couples in the books.
  • Honorary Uncle:
    • Qwill considers himself to be something like this to Liz Hart, whom he meets when he saves her life on Breakfast Island after she is bitten by a deadly snake. A later book notes that because of that connection, he takes a sort of "godfatherly interest" in the young woman's well-being and activities. When she dies in a car accident in book #28 (The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell), he is deeply saddened.
    • Qwill refers to Fanny Klingenschoen as his "Aunt Fanny", but they weren't related at all; she was his mother's best friend and considered him her godson.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Liz Hart and her boyfriend Derek Cuttlebrink are described this way. However, Liz is a woman of ordinary proportions and only appears tiny next to Derek, who is literally seven feet tall.
  • The Hyena: Book 15 (The Cat Who Went Into the Closet) Celia Robinson, who has a loud, musical laugh and will crack up even at Qwilleran's mildest quips. In book 17 (The Cat Who Blew the Whistle), Qwilleran introduces to her the idea of "fine-tuning" her laugh.
  • It Runs in the Family: Qwill discovers in book 22 that his father had an alcohol problem like him.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Qwilleran, as well as many of the other cast members. The author counts as well.
  • Like a Son to Me: Although he doesn't ever voice the notion, Qwilleran thinks in at least one book that if he'd ever had a son, he would have liked him to be like Junior Goodwinter. He also mentally describes his feelings for Elizabeth Hart as such as he would have for a goddaughter or niece, having once saved her life.
  • Long-Running Book Series: 1966 to 2007, totaling 34 books (counting spinoffs), albeit with an eighteen-year gap in publication between books 3 and 4.
  • Long-Runners: The series has nearly 30 books, plus a handful of side volumes.
  • Long-Runner Tech Marches On: In the early books, Qwill has a clunky manual typewriter that he refuses to replace with an electric one. In the later ones he has a clunky electric typewriter that he refuses to replace with a word processor. It's still claimed to be the machine he used his entire journalistic career.
  • Luck-Based Search Technique: Koko is often responsible for unintentionally revealing the culprit or final clues... or is he? One of the ongoing themes for the series is the question of whether or not the Siamese is psychic.
  • Man in a Kilt: Probably inevitable, given the Scottish history that was built for Qwilleran's character. Despite this, he resists for a long time, but eventually buys one in a moment of weakness after getting a scare regarding Polly Duncan's health in book 17 (The Cat Who Blew the Whistle) and formally debuts it in book 19 (The Cat Who Tailed a Thief).
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Applying to both Qwill and Koko.
    • Qwill's pepper-and-salt mustache bristles occasionally, and he sees it as a sign of raw intuition picking up on something suspicious.
    • Koko at times appears to be psychic, but it's always left ambiguous as to whether or not his catty antics are just what they seem to be or not. At least, Qwilleran seems to find it ambiguous, but to the reader it's a bit more obvious that there's something magic about it. If a cat lets out a chilling howl once at the exact time of a suspicious death that later turns out to be murder, that may be a coincidence. If said cat repeatedly does this, then it can no longer be written off as just coincidence, especially combined with some of the other things Koko does — not to mention his six extra whiskers on each side, which are revealed in book 18 (The Cat Who Said Cheese) and may be related. However, on the "mundane" side of the argument is the fact that Qwill rarely manages to predict anything from Koko's clues, and the explanation of how Koko solves the mystery usually comes as Qwill tries to fit in Koko's behaviour after the fact with the solution he already knows.
    • A lesser example is Mildred Hanstable Riker's Tarot readings. They are vague enough that there's no proof Mildred can predict the future, but almost always prove accurate.
  • Missing Mom: Qwill adored his mother, Anne Mackintosh Qwilleran, who died prior to the beginning of the series. She raised him as a single parent, since his father died while she was pregnant with Qwill.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Qwilleran is notorious for his potent coffee brew.
  • Mystery Magnet: James Qwilleran encounters murders and other various crimes with alarming frequency, even as the newspaper he works for often sends him out to do innocuous fluff pieces on things like a food expo, art exhibits, and the like. Lampshaded when one of the characters comments that he cannot remember any dead bodies before Qwilleran came to town.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: An in-universe sort of variant. Qwill is frequently mentioned by other characters as bearing a strong resemblance to Mark Twain.
  • Noodle Incident: Something took place prior to the start of the series which caused Qwill to lose everything he ever owned, including any photographs he ever had of his mother. Exactly what it was never gets completely revealed, although his disastrous marriage and bout of alcoholism are at least tangentially connected; book 22 suggests a fire was involved.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Moose County is "400 miles north of everywhere," and is described as an idyllic but boring rural location. The locals insist that crime is something that happens "Down Below," as they refer to the rest of the U.S., despite the fact that Moose County seems to have a per capita murder rate to rival Cabot Cove or St. Mary Meade.
  • The Noun Who Verbed: All of the titles.
  • Odd Name, Normal Nickname: Qwill's librarian girlfriend is Polly Duncan. Very few people know that Polly's father was such a Shakespeare devotee that all of his children were named after characters from the plays, and Polly's real first name is actually Hippolyta.
  • One-Hour Work Week: Qwilleran is a columnist of this sort. His column is mentioned pretty frequently, but doesn't curtail him solving murders, taking up esoteric hobbies, and traveling all over the place. (And since he owns the newspaper — through a trust fund he had previously set up to deal with an inheritance — it's not like he needs to work. He just likes doing it so he doesn't get bored.)
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Qwill's girlfriend Polly Duncan is known by most only as Polly. Possibly no one else in Moose County knows that her Shakespeare-loving father named his daughter Hippolyta. Qwill himself also fits the trope, except that he had his name legally changed; his oldest friend Arch is almost the only other person in the world who knows that James Mackintosh Qwilleran was born Merlin James Qwilleran.
  • Papa Wolf: Qwill's cats are as dear to him as any children, and messing with them is a guarantee that he'll come down on the perpetrator like a ton of bricks. Especially notable in The Cat Who Wasn't There, when he races to rescue Yum Yum from someone who's kidnapped her and is holding her for ransom.
  • Pet the Dog: Qwill engages in this as frequently as circumstances allow. If he likes someone, he will go to great lengths to contribute to their happiness and well-being. One example: after the death of Junior Goodwinter's father, his mother auctions off practically everything they own, including a family heirloom desk which had been promised to Junior. Qwill defiantly outbids every challenger in order to purchase the desk, so he can give it to Junior as a wedding gift when he marries his sweetheart Jodie.
  • Picky Eater: The cats. Due to Koko's original owner being a gourmand who fed him only the best, the cat has acquired a taste for fancier food, to the point where he outright refuses anything less (such as regular cat food when Qwill tries to switch him to it in book 4), while Yum Yum insists on equality and won't accept any less than what Koko gets. Qwill swears more than once that the cats can read price labels and go out of their way to eat expensive.
  • Pun-Based Title: The Moose County Something. When Qwill purchases the local paper after its previous owner's death, he and the staff give it this placeholder title and hold a county-wide vote for a new name. But it turns out that the majority of the residents actually like calling it the Something, and it sticks.
  • Punny Name: The weatherman in Moose County, Weatherby Goode. Subverted in that it's a self-given stage name; his real name is Joe Bunker, as revealed in book #19 (The Cat Who Tailed a Thief).
  • Really Moves Around: Qwill and the cats rarely spend two books in a row in the same quarters, with books 7 and 8 marking the first time it happens in the series (in both, Qwill lives in the former servant's quarters over the garage of the Klingenschoen family mansion). In The Cat Who Talked To Ghosts, Qwill says to Arch Riker that "I'm a gypsy at heart," ... "Home is where I hang my toothbrush and where the cats have their commode."
  • Running Gag: In the early books, all of Qwill's editors misspell his name with a "q-u" instead of his actual "q-w". This occasionally resurfaces in later installments.
  • Scrapbook Story: Braun sometimes allows the story to be told from Qwilleran's perspective through personal journal entries or audio recordings; it generally works very well when she does.
  • Second Love: Qwill for Polly Duncan, whose firefighter husband was killed in the line of duty less than a year after they married. This was at least fifteen years before she meets Qwill; she never remarried, nor even entered another serious relationship prior to meeting him. Judging by the way she talks about him on one of her early dates with Qwill, there's a good reason for this, but her relationship with Qwill does help her to finally heal.
  • Secret Identity: A mundane example. Qwill adopts the moniker of "Ronald Frobnitz" when he wants to hide his involvement in some philanthropic effort, such as making a bid in a silent auction on a horrible piece of art that no one else wants.
  • Self-Deprecating Humor: The Pickax Picayune, Moose County's newspaper when Qwill comes to town, falls into this. To call something picayune means to say that it is trivial or has very little worth, so the paper's name is essentially claiming that the news it reports is unimportant — or that the newspaper itself is unimportant. Or both.
  • Sesquipedalian Smith: Eddington Smith, the soft-spoken bookstore owner.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Both Qwilleran and Polly are big Shakespeare buffs, and the series includes everything from minor Shakespeare references to entire Shakespeare plays being performed by the Pickax Theatre Club.
  • Spy Fiction: Played with using the Celia Robinson character, who is introduced in book #15 (The Cat Who Went Into the Closet) and does missions for Qwilleran ("The Chief") as his "Secret Agent 13 1/2".
  • Start to Corpse: Given the folksy nature of the series, it's not surprising that many of the books in it have a fairly long start to corpse. Even in the first book of the series, before the setting moved to the homely Moose County, it's page 88 before word comes down of a murder, and the book is only 216 pages long.
  • Stock "Yuck!":
    • Qwill loathes turnips and doesn't hesitate to say so; in book 18 (The Cat Who Said Cheese), he's convinced that 'something underhanded' must be done to make a dish containing turnips palatable. In another case in the same book, he writes in his "Qwill Pen" column about all of the different ways in which turnips are awful and in return (very late in the book) receives a giant turnip grown by one of his readers. First, though, the package has to be inspected by the bomb squad because there has recently been a bombing in the community and the package is considered suspicious.
    • Qwill generally disdains tea, though he'll drink it to be polite if there's nothing else.
  • Talk About the Weather: In Moose County, it is generally customary to spend a minute or two talking about the weather before moving on to more serious subjects. This is just considered simple politeness, even with two people who know each other quite well.
  • Tall Tale: Qwilleran collects various tall tales from around Moose County, and eventually publishes them.
  • The Teetotaler: After putting his life back together prior to the events of book 1, Qwill has sworn off alcohol of any type, though he doesn't have any problem serving it to others.
  • Thieving Pet: Yum Yum has a habit of snatching small random objects, to the point where Qwill's nicknamed her "Yum Yum the Paw".
  • Throw It In: In-Universe example with the town of Brrr, long noted as the coldest spot in the county. It's explained in book #24 (The Cat Who Went Up the Creek) and book #28 (The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell) that the name was originally the result of a sign writer's slip-of-the-brush, misspelling "Burr" as "Brrr", but it was kept both for the aforementioned reasoning and because the townsfolk thought the mistake was funny.
  • Uncle Pennybags: When James Qwilleran inherits a couple billion dollars from his mother's best friend in book 5 (The Cat Who Played Brahms), he doesn't have the slightest idea what to do with it. So he sets up a philanthropic fund to assist with various endeavors around the community of Pickax, buys and revamps the dying local newspaper (and recruits his childhood best friend to be its editor), and gets involved with assorted charity activities and events. This generosity, coupled with his likable disposition, quickly endears him to his neighbors and he becomes one of the most beloved figures in the area.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Qwill and Arch are the best of friends, but spend most of their time sniping at one another.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The majority of the series takes place in Moose County, which is described as being "four hundred miles north of everywhere". Its definitely in the United States (a minor subplot in The Cat Who Played Post Office involves an outdated American flag on display) and is probably somewhere in the vicinity of the Great Lakes. That's all that has ever been explained about where it is — the books never even mention which state it's in.
    • While the first four books are suggested to take place in some major city, we never learn which one. Rather unusually for newspapers, neither the paper Qwill works for (The Daily Fluxion) nor its rival (The Morning Rampage) include the name of the city. The Cat Who Played Post Office confirms it and Moose County are in the same state though.
      • A now-defunct fan forum once speculated that the city in the first few books is likely Detroit, but a brief mention of Michigan as a different location in The Cat Who Could Read Backwards would seem to refute this theory (while in the same book, Chicago, New York, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh are similarly ruled out). Additionally, one character is mentioned to be traveling through Pittsburgh while driving to New York, indicating that the unnamed city must be further west.
      • In The Cat Who Turned On and Off, a character travels by plane to Cleveland, thus also ruling it out as the setting.
      • A mention of a character hiding out in Duluth (implying that it's a nearby "big place" into which one could disappear), plus the similar weather and proximity to the Great Lakes, could indicate northern Minnesota as Moose County's location.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: In the later books, Qwill is romantically involved with Polly Duncan, the head librarian in Pickax. Polly, as it turns out, is short for Hippolyta. She explains that her father was a Shakespeare devotee, and she and her siblings are all named after characters from the various plays.
  • Wild Mass Guessing: In-Universe, Polly, the protagonist's librarian girlfriend, has a theory that Elizabeth I is secretly the true author of all of Shakespeare's works, using a pseudonym.

Book-specific tropes:

    #1: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (1966) 

  • Caustic Critic: In the original book, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, the art critic Mountclemens is very much this. He has managed to offend just about everyone on the art scene in town except for a select few artists he's propping up, but is kept because his columns draw huge readership. His targets include a wealthy donor whose work he describes as "drugstore art". Of a sweet old butcher called "Uncle Waldo", he comments that "age is no substitute for talent". He also targets private collectors who are "less dedicated to art preservation than tax avoidance". Even his full name, George Bonifield Mountclemens III, pisses off some people, as it must be set line-by-line in the type on his byline and he insists on no abbreviations.note 
  • Cloudcuckoolanguage: Nino, in the first book. Lampshaded: "He even speaks a language of his own, but we don't expect conformity of a genius, do we?"
  • Disney Villain Death: Inverted in The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, where it's an innocent, the artist Nino, who dies when he slips off a stepladder and falls twenty-six feet onto a concrete floor.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: In the first book, Scrano is O. Narx.

    #2: The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern (1967) 

  • I Have Many Names: When Qwill meets George Verne Tait and his wife Signe, George says their cat's name is Yu, the Chinese word for jade (which he's a notorious collector of). His wife, however, says her name is Freya. When Qwill adopts her, he renames her Yum Yum, after the heroine in The Mikado (who is also the ward of a man named Ko-Ko).

    #3: The Cat Who Turned On and Off (1968) 

  • Undercover Cop Reveal: The last chapter casually reveals that Hollis Prantz, one of the Junktown dealers, is actually an undercover officer from Narcotics and was investigating a heroin ring in the area.

    #4: The Cat Who Saw Red (1986) 

  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Koko's talent at detecting crimes is particularly showcased in The Cat Who Saw Red; Qwill is given an art piece by the man who married Joy, Qwill's first love, and he knows he hates the man, but he has no real reason apart from jealousy. Koko circles the piece of pottery and then hisses at it, prompting Qwill to decide, "We can't both be wrong." The red glazing on the pottery was created by its artist putting Joy's body into the kiln after he murdered her.
  • Furnace Body Disposal: In The Cat Who Saw Red, Qwill learns that the murder victim's body was disposed of in a potter's kiln. It's what created the red "living glaze" on the pots.
  • First Girl Wins: To a small extent. In The Cat Who Saw Red, Qwill is reunited with his first love, Joy; he admits that every woman he's ever been involved with since her, including his ex-wife, has reminded him of her. After she's murdered, he finally moves on.
  • Never a Runaway: Qwill reunites with his first love Joy, who is married to a ceramic artist that Qwill instantly despises. Later in the story, Qwill writes her a check so she can try to get away from him, but a few days later the check bounces because someone tried to change the amount for much more than what was in his account. He confronts her husband, who shrugs and says that Joy ran out on him and isn't as innocent as Qwill wants to think. Her running away is accepted as the official story, but Qwill isn't buying it. The husband is lying, of course. He killed Joy and put her body in his kiln to destroy the evidence, then tried to cash the modified check.
  • On One Condition: In The Cat Who Saw Red, when Qwill learns the origins of Maus Haus, he finds it was a result of this trope. Hugh Penniman conceived the building as an arts center and, in his will, said that under its new owner, it must continue to serve the arts. After Penniman's sons declined it based on the condition, it passed to Hugh's niece and subsequently to her husband, Hugh's nephew-in-law Robert Maus, who solved this by renting the studios to gourmets (gastronomy being considered an art by its practitioner) and reactivating the old pottery operation. However, as demonstrated in the start of The Cat Who Played Brahms, the clause didn't forbid him from eventually selling the property to a developer who wanted to tear it down and build a high-rise apartment on the spot.
  • Weight Woe: Qwilleran has to go on a diet for the duration of the novel and is angered to discover in the first fifty pages that he's actually gained three pounds since his doctor's appointment. He never realizes it's because Koko was also standing on the scale at the same time.

    #5: The Cat Who Played Brahms (1987) 

  • Blatant Lies: Fanny Klingenschoen told many of them, but the biggest would have to be the various fibs she told about how to get into her will (e.g. she would leave money to anyone who was named after her). When she dies and leaves everything to Qwill, the locals are rather understandably angry until the next book, where he sets up the foundation that disperses the money.
  • Honorary Uncle: Qwill refers to Fanny Klingenschoen as Aunt Fanny, as he has done since childhood; she's actually his late mother's best friend, and considers him her godson. This is why she leaves him her estate of roughly $4 billion.
  • Lost Will and Testament: When Fanny Klingenschoen dies, one of Qwill's first tasks is to find where she hid her will, per the request of her lawyers. It turns out to be in her safe, along with two outdated copies.
  • On One Condition: When his Aunt Fanny dies, Qwill finds he can only inherit the Klingenschoen money if he remains a resident of Moose County for five years. The next book clarifies that leaving sooner than that would mean that the money would be turned over to a syndicate in New Jersey. "Leaving" also includes his death, which makes him a potential target. When he makes it to the five-year benchmark in book 13, he throws a celebration.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Qwilleran inherits a huge fortune from his "Aunt Fanny". All Qwill really remembers about her is that she was a dear friend of his mother's and that he was forced to write polite letters to her as a boy; but since she had no surviving blood relatives, he's the one who receives her billions. According to her lawyer, she considered Qwill to be her godson. The catch is that he has to live in Moose County for five years, but he grows to enjoy the small-town life fairly quickly.

    #6: The Cat Who Played Post Office (1988) 

  • Driven to Suicide: The last death in The Cat Who Played Post Office is made to look like one, until the very end when Qwill realizes Penelope Goodwinter really did commit suicide, but made it look like her brother Alexander and their cohort Birch Tree murdered her. It's then implied Alexander commits suicide as well by crashing a plane to get out of being arrested for his role in the deaths of Daisy and Della Mull and Tiffany Trotter.
  • Incest Subtext: In book #6 (The Cat Who Played Post Office), Penelope and Alexander Goodwinter, the sibling lawyers who initially handle Qwill's inheritance, are very close and it's implied Penelope is in love with her brother; at the very least, Penelope is a Clingy Jealous Girl.
  • In Medias Res: The Cat Who Played Post Office, in which Qwilleran moves to Moose County, opens with a scene in which Qwilleran awakes in a hospital following a bad bicycle wreck with a case of Easy Amnesia that is quickly resolved. Most of the remainder of the book depicts the events that eventually led up to this.
  • Never Found the Body: The driving plot of The Cat Who Played Post Office involves Qwill trying to figure out what happened to Daisy Mull, who disappeared five years earlier, after he gets confirmation that one of the supposed messages she sent indicating she was leaving was a forgery. She was killed by Birch Tree and her body was hidden by a mine collapse.
  • Never Suicide: The victim even leaves a note saying that if she apparently commits suicide, it was most likely murder at the hands of the most obvious suspect in the murder Qwill was originally investigating. However, the trope is subverted at the very last page. As Qwill himself says, "It wasn't murder made to look like suicide, it was suicide made to look like murder!" On top of that, it's entirely possible that the victim wasn't exactly the manipulated patsy of an accomplice she makes herself out to be. She was, after all, the brains of the family law firm.
  • Non-Idle Rich: When Qwilleran first inherits his billions, he is horrified because he has never needed a great amount of possessions to be happy and loathes the idea of living in a huge mansion with servants. He quickly establishes the Klingenschoen Foundation to dispose of the vast majority of the unwanted fortune; the K-Fund provides grants for small businesses and locals in need.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: The Cat Who Played Post Office has one of the people involved in a murder plot send Qwill a letter describing the plot and saying that she fears her partners will try to kill her and make it look like an accident or a suicide. Actually it was a genuine suicide. She killed herself because her brother rejected her to marry another woman, and the letter was her way of getting revenge on him.
  • Thanatos Gambit: After Penelope Goodwinter's apparent suicide, Qwilleran receives a posthumous letter claiming she expects to be murdered by her brother for her part in arranging (and then exposing) the murder of a girl he'd impregnated. Qwilleran eventually realizes she did commit suicide, and sent the letter to frame her brother — but by then, he's committed suicide as well.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Qwill gives himself one at the end of the book. While his girlfriend Melinda is praising him for learning the truth about what happened to a missing servant girl, Qwill points out that by digging into the girl's disappearance, he caused those responsible for what happened to the girl to panic and kill three other women; if he'd stayed out of it, the killers would never have been brought to justice, but those women would still be alive.

    #7: The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare (1988) 

  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Herb Hackpole, after getting remarried to Iris Cobb, tries to burn down the new Klingenschoen Museum so she can't work there, like she insisted she was going to continue to do after they got married. He succeeds in destroying the museum, but dies in the blaze in the process.
  • Like a Son to Me: Although he doesn't ever voice the notion, Qwilleran thinks in this book that if he'd ever had a son, he would have liked him to be like Junior Goodwinter.
  • Put on a Bus: Melinda Goodwinter, introduced two books before, is noted early on as having left Pickax for Boston.

    #8: The Cat Who Sniffed Glue (1988) 

  • Angsty Surviving Twin: The book features David Fitch, who has to deal with not only the murder of his twin brother Harley and Harley's wife, but also their mother's fatal stroke and their father's suicide, both indirectly caused by the murder. His friends are all worried he may follow his father's example. Subverted when we find out that David was Dead All Along and the surviving twin is actually Harley, who killed David in order to take his place. He was having an affair with David's wife. The parents' stroke and suicide were caused by the fact that they figured out the truth, and couldn't live with it.
  • Bad with the Bone: Attempted by the killer, who attacks Qwill with the thigh bone of a camel. Luckily for Qwill, the bone turns out to be a plaster fake that crumbles after one hit.
  • Epiphanic Prison: Wealthy parents Nigel and Margret Finch have their twin sons David and Harley in one of these. They addicted the boys to a life of luxury, then give them just enough of an allowance to let them keep living the good life — as long as they do everything that their parents tell them to do.
  • Evil Twin: The existence of an evil twin turns out to be a plot point in resolving the murder. Everyone thinks that mild-mannered David is mourning the recent murders of his twin brother Harley and sister-in-law Belle, and that the tragedy is what caused the twins' mother to have a stroke. It's eventually revealed that Harley was having an affair with David's wife Jill, and they cooked up a scheme in which Harley killed both David and Belle and took David's place. The mother's stroke happened when she figured it out. It's especially jarring because prior to all of this, no one had any suspicions about either twin.
  • Financial Abuse: The Fitches, one of the prominent families in Moose County, are said to control their adult children by "giving [the kids] a taste for luxuries but keeping them poor."
  • Improvised Weapon: During the climactic showdown, the killer attacks Qwill with a plaster replica of a camel's thigh bone (thinking it was a real one). Qwill defends himself with the nearest convenient object — an old bugle.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Continuing in this role, Qwill helps to found a more full-featured newspaper in his new hometown of Pickax, whose newspaper was previously stuck in the 19th century.
  • Samus Is a Girl: At one point, Polly is jealous when she sees Qwill out with a young woman on the night he told her he was having dinner with "the architect from Cincinnati". Qwill informs her that the young woman was the architect from Cincinnati, and jokingly scolds her for "assuming the profession was limited to men". To be fair to Polly, though, (a) Qwill knew that she was assuming that the architect was a man, and he didn't correct her, and (b) the architect was one of his ex-girlfriends.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Harley Fitch, arguably. He didn't directly kill his parents, nor even intend for them to die, but they both died as a direct result of his actions.
  • Smelly Skunk: After escaping Qwill's newly-wrecked car, Koko and Yum Yum have a run-in with a skunk when they apparently mistake it for another cat and leap out of a tree onto it. It takes some doing to deodorize them, and even then a hint of the smell lingers long enough for the book's killer to pass out when Koko gets too close to his face.
  • Twin Switch: Central to the resolution. A couple has adult twin sons, David and Harley. One night, Harley and his wife Belle are murdered when someone breaks into their home. It's eventually revealed that it was actually David and Belle who were murdered; Harley and David's wife Jill, who were having an affair, had planned the whole thing so they could be together without anyone realizing. The twins' parents figured it out and were utterly destroyed — the mother had a stroke over it and the father shot himself because he was unable to choose between informing the police what had happened or becoming an accessory after the fact by hiding the truth.

    #9: The Cat Who Went Underground (1989) 

  • All for Nothing: Qwill spends three weeks at his cabin, spending part of that time trying to have an addition built onto it that he can use as a study. He goes through two carpenters (both of whom disappear and turn up dead) before the addition, except for its foundation, is destroyed in a storm. After that, he gives up on having it built and soon after moves back to Pickax.
  • Death by Childbirth: The mother of the book's killer died giving birth to her second daughter.
  • Freudian Excuse: What turned the book's killer into a killer. Years of sexual abuse and the suicide of her twelve-year-old sister, who was also being abused, led to her developing a second personality who concluded that since her abuser was a carpenter, all carpenters were bad, therefore she started killing them.
  • Key Under the Doormat: When Qwill is staying in the Klingenschoen cabin in Mooseville in The Cat Who Went Underground, he notes at one point that a spare key is hidden in a hollow log at the bottom of the log rack on the porch. When considering other places that someone might look for a key (to get in and feed his cats, if something happens to him), he thinks of obvious places like on top of the doorframe or under the doormat.
  • Not Me This Time: When Qwill discovers a string of suspicious deaths or disappearances, all carpenters, he comes to suspect a serial killer. In the end, it turns out they were only responsible for five of the six deaths being investigated. The last one was Captain Phlogg, a local alcoholic and phony who sells fake antiques and was a ship's carpenter rather than a captain like he always claimed, and who ultimately and accidentally did himself in via his drinking habit.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The second carpenter Qwill hires goes by Iggy. It's not until after his death that the police find his driver's license and Qwill learns his full name, Ignatius K. Small, from it.
  • Self-Made Orphan: The killer in this book is a sympathetic example, who killed not only her father but men who reminded her of her father, is revealed to be a victim of Parental Incest, and has a Split Personality to boot.
  • Serial Killer: The murderer in this book is one, whose targets are all local carpenters. And they've been keeping track of them by using lipstick to write the victims' names and the dates of the murders on the wood under Qwill's cabin.
  • Split Personality: The killer in the book turns out to have a murderous second personality, "Louise", who actually committed the killings and was brought on by years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father.

    #10: The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts (1990) 

  • Baby Talk: Polly tends to talk this way to her new cat Bootsie (who is introduced in this book), much to the chagrin of Qwilleran, who treats his Siamese as sophisticated and intelligent.
  • Constantly Curious: Baby, the little girl who lives near Iris's home. Unfortunately, it leads to her getting seriously injured, though she gets better.
  • Faking the Dead: Qwill discovers in this book that Ephraim Goodwinter faked his own suicide and moved to Switzerland until he died of natural causes a little over thirty years later.
  • In-Series Nickname: Qwill rather disparagingly refers to Polly's new kitten Bootsie as "Bigfoot" in this book only, though not where Polly can hear him.
  • Last Disrespects: The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts frequently refers to the funeral of Ephraim Goodwinter, who had a record number of mourners accompanying the funeral procession; but the vast majority were there to celebrate his death, since Ephraim was one of the most hated men in town after indirectly causing the deaths of 42 miners. (See Meaningful Funeral, below.)
  • Meaningful Funeral: It's frequently mentioned that the funeral of Ephraim Goodwinter, the patriarch of the well-to-do Goodwinter family, was extremely large and of great significance to the people of Moose County. Of course, since most of the people in Moose County hated him, it was meaningful for the wrong sort of reason. (It's also implied that he might not have actually been dead at the time of his funeral; Qwill finds evidence of a sort of escape hatch by which he might have evaded the circumstances of his death, and papers indicating the same.)
  • No Name Given: We never learn the real name of the child called Baby.
  • Video Will: Iris Cobb leaves one in this book. She leaves most everything to her son or the museum where she worked, with her shares in the new antique store she was starting going to her business partner and Qwill being bequeathed her book of recipes and the wardrobe he once gave her as a wedding present.

    #11: The Cat Who Lived High (1990) 

  • I Warned You: Early on, when Qwill is making plans to go back to Down Below for a while, pretty much everyone he knows tells him it's a bad idea and tells him not to go. When the police call them to inform them Qwill is dead (it's actually a thief who stole his car and was misidentified), everyone is deeply distressed, and Chief Andrew Brodie even cries "I warned him!"
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Literally, in The Cat Who Lived High, when the vacationing Qwill's car is stolen and the driver turns up dead. The local law enforcement where the car is found, who don't know Qwill, assume the dead man is the owner of the car and issue an incorrect report. While most of Moose County is thrown into deep mourning, Arch goes to where Qwill is staying to get the cats — and almost has a heart attack when he finds Qwill alive and sort of well, having just fought off an attempt on his life.

    #12: The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal (1991) 

  • Bubble Pipe: Qwill buys a few in this book after it's suggested to him that the bubbles could be used to amuse the cats. Naturally, when Qwill tries it out for the first time, the pair are not impressed. He later gives them to Polly so she can use them to entertain Bootsie.
  • Driven to Suicide: Dennis Hough, son of the late Iris Cobb, who hangs himself in Qwill's barn after his wife calls and leaves him a message that she's filing for divorce and marrying someone else.
  • Edible Bludgeon: Qwill uses one of these — a frozen rabbit he bought from a butcher shop earlier for the cats — to knock the killer senseless in the climax.
  • Inheritance Murder: The motive for Hilary VanBrook's death. The killer wanted to off him before he could change his will and disinherit his intended heir (who was merely an accomplice, but agrees to testify against the killer afterward) for dropping out of school. However, the killer acted too late, and the man's belongings and money all go to his new heir — the Pickax school system — instead.
  • No Sympathy: Dennis Hough's wife feels none whatsoever when she learns her husband (whom she was planning on divorcing) just killed himself out of grief over her rejecting him, and tells the police officer on the phone that she wants nothing to do with him, alive or dead.
  • Personal Effects Reveal: While going through Hilary VanBrook's belongings with the executor of his estate, Qwill uncovers evidence that he was involved in a money-counterfeiting scheme.
  • Stage Names: Hilary VanBrook goes by this name for professional purposes. After his death, his real name is revealed as William Smurple.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Dennis Hough's wife. He spends months working on an out-of-town, well-paying renovation job to support his family, and she responds by telling him not to come home because she's divorcing him and marrying someone who can be physically present for their son, resulting in Dennis taking his own life.

    #13: The Cat Who Moved a Mountain (1991) 

  • The Bus Came Back: Melinda Goodwinter returns to Pickax while Qwill is away, though she isn't seen onscreen until the next book.
  • Driven to Suicide: While Qwill is away, Dr. Halifax Goodwinter deliberately overdoses shortly after his wife's funeral.
  • Inheritance Murder: The motive for J.J. Hawkinfield's murder — his daughter had him killed so she could collect her inheritance.
  • Self-Made Orphan: The killer in this book is Sherry Hawkinfield, a young woman whom Qwill meets when taking a vacation to nearby Potato Mountain, who had her father killed so she could collect her inheritance.
  • Sherlock Scan: Jim Qwilleran does this on occasion, most notably in The Cat Who Moved a Mountain; after hearing a single sentence from Dolly Lessmore on the telephone, he conceives a notion of her as "rather short and stocky, with a towering hair-do, a taste for bright colors, a three-pack-a-day habit, and a pocketful of breath mints." Upon seeing the sign in her office that reads "THANKS FOR NOT SMOKING" — the only deviation from this conception — he asks her when she stopped smoking and floors her.

    #14: The Cat Who Wasn't There (1992) 

  • Driven to Suicide: Melinda Goodwinter kills herself out of madness and guilt from accidentally killing one of her best friends instead of her intended target.
  • Faking the Dead: Emory Goodwinter, son of Halifax Goodwinter, did this via faking a car crash in New Jersey six years before, then changed his name to Charles Edward Martin, who would later return to Pickax in this book to claim his share of his father's estate and committing a string of petty thefts before being caught.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: Variant in that the speaker is talking about someone else — Qwill says of Yum Yum at one point that "Yes, propinquity is her middle name...".
  • Murder by Mistake: During the trip to Scotland, Irma Hasselrich dies suddenly. It's later revealed that the killer was trying to murder Polly Duncan by substituting her vitamin pills with poisoned capsules. Polly, who'd stopped taking the vitamins in question, gave them to Irma instead, resulting in her death.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Melinda Goodwinter tries this after she becomes convinced that Polly Duncan is the only thing standing between her and marrying into the Klingenschoen fortune. This is despite the fact that (a) she knows that Qwill has given away pretty much all his money to the K Foundation, and (b) she knows Qwill is not inclined to marry anyone. Of course, rationality isn't exactly her strong point by the time she tries this.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After her and her sister's valuable teddy bear collection is stolen from their house, a furious Grace Utley abandons Pickax and Moose County, moving away and selling her home from a distance.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Qwill's one-time love interest, Melinda Goodwinter, goes so far as to try to have his serious girlfriend murdered in an attempt to get him back.
  • Verbal Tic: Grace Utley has a habit of periodically ending her sentences in "... yes!".

    #15: The Cat Who Went Into the Closet (1993) 

  • The Con: The villains of the book, who run the Park of Pink Sunsets, a mobile home park in Florida, are running one. They trick their clients into making the park their heirs via blackmail and then poison them to ensure the victim doesn't pull out.
  • Mall Santa: Qwilleran is drafted into being the Santa Claus of the small town of Pickax. He takes things fairly well, but panics when he learns that he's not done because he's still required to do lap-sitting.
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: Jim Qwilleran is an in-universe example. In The Cat Who Went Into the Closet, he creates a play with a dramatic radio re-enactment based on a historical fire which tore through the area. Although radio didn't exist at the time, attendees are asked to imagine that it did. Using historical newspaper accounts, he creates a script, voices the radio announcer, and splices in interviews by doing of recordings of himself in various voices, including an old farmer, an Irish brogue, and much more.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: Euphonia Gage, after promising to leave everything to her grandchildren, is revealed to have changed her will and left everything to the mobile home park where she was living in Florida. It isn't said in this book if the will was nullified after it turned out the owners defrauded and killed her.
  • Proscenium Reveal: The opening pages of the book start with a radio announcer at his newsdesk, reporting on a major forest fire destroying towns in the area, and finally that the town of Pickax itself, where he is, is in flames, just before getting to his feet and rushing out of the room... and then everything goes dark, just before we hear the audience talking about it — the "radio announcer" was Qwill, doing a one-man stage show based on a massive forest fire that destroyed much of Moose County over a hundred years before.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Euphonia Gage believes this and wears a lot of purple.
  • Santa Claus: In The Cat Who Went Into the Closet, Qwill agrees to take on the role of town Santa Claus in the Pickax Christmas parade, but very nearly bolts when informed only after the parade itself is over that he's expected at the courthouse for lap-sitting, having already endured a bumpy dogsled ride through bitter cold weather, followed by a perilous ladder-climb.
    Qwill: Lap-sitting? What the devil is that?
    Wilfred: They built a gingerbread house for you in front of the courthouse, and the kids sit on your lap and have their pictures taken.
    Qwill: Oh, no, they don't! I refuse flatly! Enough is enough!
    Wilfred: Mr. Qwilleran, sir, you gotta!
  • Unknown Relative: Qwill discovers, while poking around Euphonia Gage's former home, that while her husband was in prison, Euphonia had a child with another man, and gave her up to a foster family. Lethe, renamed and raised as Lena Foote, subsequently married Gil Inchpot and had a daughter of her own, Nancy, who knew none of this. Qwill subsequently reveals all this to Nancy's cousin Junior Goodwinter, who's quite startled to learn he has a new cousin who raises and races a pack of Siberian Huskies.
  • Wedding Episode: Part of the plot involves Qwill and Polly attending the wedding of Arch Riker and Mildred Hanstable. It mostly goes smoothly, except for Qwill having to rush back to Pickax early in a dogsled when the Gage mansion gets broken into and the cats are seemingly missing.

    #16: The Cat Who Came to Breakfast (1994) 

  • I Have Many Names: Unusually for the trope, it's an island instead of a person. Qwill has always called the place Breakfast Island, but natives call it Providence Island, the rich summer residents call it Grand Island, and the developers and tourists call it Pear Island.
  • My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Appelhardt, matriarch of her family, is very controlling of her children, especially of her daughter Elizabeth.

    #17: The Cat Who Blew the Whistle (1995) 

  • Disguised in Drag: One of the plotters in this book is revealed to be a man who had been masquerading as a woman. His name is Lionel, but he went by Lionella, or just Nella for short, in his disguise.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Invoked in this book by a character named Letitia, who hates her name, and who mentions that her best friend has it even worse, being named Lionella.
  • I Am Not Weasel: Eddie Trevelyan, who's working on Polly Duncan's house in this book, refers to Koko as a weasel a couple of times. There are also a couple other instances in which Koko and Yum Yum are mistaken for animals other than cats, due to the somewhat unusual appearance of Siamese in comparison with the types of cats people are used to, particularly at a distance.
  • Lame Pun Reaction:
    • When Mildred Riker says that Yum Yum has had her "catciousness" raised, Qwill groans at the pun, Polly shudders and Arch says that was the worst pun he's ever heard.
    • Later, Qwill makes one about why his cats are sniffing Celia Robertson's purse (he claims they think her feline companion Wrigley is inside, and "want to let the cat out of the bag"), prompting a bout of hysterical laughter from her.
  • Pyramid Power: Elizabeth Hart is big on the idea of pyramid power. Unannounced, she and her boyfriend pop over to the Qwilleran's apple barn and set up a makeshift portable pyramid. After they leave, Koko makes his way to the very center of the pyramid, and there is a blackout across all of Pickax that doesn't stop until he exits the pyramid (and Qwill promptly disassembles and disposes of it to prevent such a thing from happening again).

    #18: The Cat Who Said Cheese (1996) 

  • Appeal to Worse Problems: When Qwill offers the cats some ground lamb, Koko and Yum Yum turn up their noses at it. Qwill responds by scolding them, saying "There are disadvantaged cats out there who don't know where their next mouse is coming from!" It makes no difference whatsoever.
  • Bachelor Auction: As part of the Explo, a celebrity auction is held with five men and five women, each accompanied by a special other event for the winning bidder. Qwill is talked into being one of the men (along with Pickax Mayor Gregory Blythe, John Bushland, Derek Cuttlebrink and Wetherby Goode), and is won by Something employee Sarah Plensdorf. He finds himself not only enjoying the evening, but getting material for his column out of it.
  • Bee Afraid: Bees are what kill the murderer in this book.
  • Call-Back: After the disappearance of Iris Cobb's cookbook in book 10 (The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts), it's finally recovered in this book, with the thief's son turning it over to Celia Robinson to return to Qwill, its rightful owner (as he was left the cookbook in Iris's will).
  • Comical Coffee Cup: During a staff meeting of The Moose County Something newspaper, Wilfred Sugbury, secretary to the publisher, fills a coffee mug for Qwilleran (owner and columnist) which reads "First we kill all the editors." He later fills another for Junior Goodwinter, the paper's editor, which reads "First we kill all the PR people."
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: In this book, an abusive ex-husband tracks his ex-wife to Moose County, using the fact that back in the navy he saved a shipmate's life (said shipmate still suffered brain damage) as leverage to coerce the local, now a beekeeper, into becoming an accessory to the bombing of said frightened ex's hotel room. When he comes back to try and cover his tracks and finish the job — the intended target was out and about but someone else died — the beekeeper inadvertently gives him a wool blanket and the bees swarm the murderer, who is found dead the next morning.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: This book has an Exit, Pursued by a Bear where the murderer is stung to death by bees because the beekeeper he's coerced into being an accomplice forgot that wool attracted them.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Aubrey Scotten, whose actions in telling his friend Victor Greer about having seen Greer's ex-wife in Pickax lead to a hotel bombing and three deaths, including Greer's own.

    #19: The Cat Who Tailed a Thief (1997) 

  • The Con: Carter Lee James' restoration projects are all one big con, allowing him to swindle thousands from his victims.
  • Frame-Up: Part of the plot involves a string of thefts, the work of a kleptomaniac, in December. Most of the stolen goods turn up in Lenny Inchpot's locker, which Qwill finds suspicious; by the end of the book, he's vindicated when it's proven that someone involved with the real thief had stashed them there as a frame job.
  • Meaningful Rename: When Polly's new cat is introduced in book #10 (The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts), he's named Bootsie, and turns out to be a real brat. His behavior, and Polly's towards him, improves once she renames him Brutus in book #19 (The Cat Who Tailed a Thief).
  • Sticky Fingers: A string of random thefts in Pickax in December prove to be the work of a kleptomaniac, Danielle Carmichael.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Lynette Duncan is murdered when arsenic is slipped into her food by her new husband while on her honeymoon.

    #20: The Cat Who Sang for the Birds (1998) 

  • Domestic Abuse: Results in the death of the second victim, who fled to escape it, along with evidence that her boyfriend was up to something else dirty. But when she returned to retrieve her personal belongings, he was waiting there and killed her.
  • Grave Humor: In book 20 (The Cat Who Sang for the Birds), Qwilleran goes exploring in a cemetery with a knowledgeable local and discovers a number of gravestones that have this. Among these is one described as "the ultimate his and hers". One reads "Shot by her dear husband", and the other next to it announces that he was "Hanged for killing his dear wife".

    #21: The Cat Who Saw Stars (1999) 

  • Skeptic No Longer: Qwill's always been skeptical of the idea UFOs, but the climax of the book sees him becoming a believer, not that he'll ever admit it to anyone else. Namely, when he sees an alien craft land and the creatures that come out of it, which Koko goes to greet, are... little green cats.

    #22: The Cat Who Robbed a Bank (2000) 

  • Burn Baby Burn: In book 22 (The Cat Who Robbed a Bank), Qwilleran discovers a series of letters from his mother to his "Aunt" Fanny, and reads them. At the end, he discovers the truth about what happened to his Disappeared Dad. In a desperate act to get money for his family, the elder Qwilleran was shot while trying to rob a bank. Qwill angrily throws the letters into the fireplace, declaring that "The past is dead!"
  • Disguised in Drag: Discussed, but not actually done. While he's discussing ways to secretly observe Delacamp's meeting with the ladies of Moose County to look over their jewelry, Qwill suggests sneaking in as a member of the wait staff; when told they're all young women dressed as French maids, he half-jokingly says that "If it weren't for my moustache, I could go in drag.", which earns a lot of laughs from his companions.
  • Disney Villain Death: The last chapters of the book reveal that the book's killer had been hiding out in the shafthouse of a long defunct mine. When his friend and Qwill go to try and find him, they accidentally startle him so he falls to his death in the shaft.
  • I Have This Friend: Late in the book, Celia Robinson O'Dell's assistant Nora comes to Qwill and tells him the story of a person named Betsy, who'd had a child out of wedlock and left him where he would be found and taken in by another family, but eventually he grew up to kill his own father. Qwill easily figures out that "Betsy" is really Nora herself, and her son is John "Boze" Campbell, the murderer of Mr. Delacamp.
  • Patricide: The victim of the book, Mr. Delacamp, is murdered by his own illegitimate son. Neither of them knew of the relation at the time though.

    #23: The Cat Who Smelled a Rat (2001) 

  • Ponzi: The villains of the book are revealed to be involved in one. Including notorious crooked businessman Don Exbridge and Mayor Gregory Blythe, along with supposed bookseller Kirt Nightingale, who's revealed to be a Moose County native who returned to town under an alias.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: When Eddington Smith dies of a heart attack in this book, Qwill is shocked to find that Smith, who'd always said he was leaving Qwill his shop in his will, wasn't kidding — he's inherited the old man's estate, including his shop and all the books inside. Unfortunately, the building is destroyed in an explosion shortly thereafter.

    #24: The Cat Who Went Up the Creek (2002) 

  • Driven to Suicide: The book's killer had brought a drug and alcohol addict along to pose as his wife, along with her little boy Danny; the mother later leaves a note in her son's shirt and throws herself off a bridge to her death because she can't take it anymore.
  • He Knows Too Much: One of the victims in the book is a nature photographer who found signs of illegal tree and gold prospecting in the Black Forest Conservancy, and is shot to prevent him from telling anyone.

    #25: The Cat Who Brought Down the House (2003) 

  • Alliterative Name: Thelma Thackeray, and her twin brother Thurston Thackeray.
  • Death by Childbirth: As revealed by Thornton Haggis, Milo Thackeray's first wife died giving birth to twins, Thelma and Thurston, the former of whom plays a major role in the book.
  • Disinherited Child: Variant in that it's a nephew rather than a son, but Thelma Thackeray had changed her will so her nephew — her only blood relative — was her primary heir. After discovering he was a murderer, she specifically changed it again to disinherit him, leaving everything to a foundation that will reestablish her late brother's animal clinic as a memorial to him.
  • Inheritance Murder: Effectively why Richard "Dick" Thackeray became a killer — first he pushed his own father to his death, and then intended to kill his aunt, who'd inherited all his father's liquid assets, after becoming her heir. Unfortunately for Dick, Thelma has already changed her will to disinherit him, and then shoots him dead for his crimes.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: Richard "Dick" Thackeray, the villain of the book, is shot dead by his own aunt after she realizes he murdered his own father and was guilty of other crimes too.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Richard "Dick" Thackeray, the villain of the book, murdered his own father a few years after his mother died.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Thelma and Thurston Thackeray, whose names started with the same two letters; Thelma states that her mother came up with two names, one for a boy and one for a girl, because she didn't know which she was having at the time, and wound up using both when it turned out to be fraternal twins.

    #26: The Cat Who Talked Turkey (2004) 

  • Does Not Drive: Alicia "Lish" Carroll, who has her own driver because a heart condition makes it unsafe for her to drive. Naturally, when she steals a car and tries to drive it near the end of the book, she gets into a fatal traffic accident.
  • Driven to Suicide: The book's killer, who did it on orders from his boss, turns his own gun on himself after learning said boss had died in a traffic accident.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: Variant in that it's only part of the inheritance that's left out. Alicia Carroll is due to inherit a great deal of other money and property from her grandmother; when Mrs. Carroll decides to leave a specific portion of her estate — her house and its contents — to the town as a museum rather than let Alicia have it, Alicia takes considerable offense.

    #27: The Cat Who Went Bananas (2005) 

  • Diet Episode: This book is one for Qwill, which includes cutting back on rich foods and having to eat a banana every day. He doesn't do too well at sticking to it though.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: Not only do the characters not find out what happened or who was responsible for the deaths of the book's victims (the actor who died in a car accident after supposedly being on drugs, and Alden Wade's wife who was shot by a sniper), the readers don't, either! It's also never quite confirmed if Alden was responsible for the theft of the book that was stolen from the new bookshop and subsequently turned up among his belongings.

    #28: The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell (2006) 

  • Creator Backlash: Discussed in-universe, late in the book, when Qwill, Polly, Arch and Mildred are talking and Qwill brings up Gelett Burgess, then recites the man's retaliatory poem saying how much he was annoyed by the popularity of his fluff 1895 poem "The Purple Cow".
  • Direct Line to the Author: Book #28 is the first and only book in the main series to imply that the books are based on real people, as it ends with a short note which involves Qwill calling Lilian Jackson Braun to interview her for the Qwill Pen.
  • Inheritance Murder: Harvey Ledfield slips mold into the air vents of his aunt and uncle's home, triggering respiratory illnesses that eventually kill them, all to ensure he'll get their money to invest in a ski lodge he's wanting to fund. It comes out afterward that he wouldn't have gotten anything, as all their money goes to charitable groups.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: During the events of the story, Qwill attends a family reunion for the Ogilvie-Fugtree family, with plans to write a column on the subject, but it's called off when two rabbit hunters go into the woods and only one returns. The other is confirmed dead, but his murder is never solved for lack of evidence.

    #29: The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers (2007) 

  • "Dear John" Letter: A few weeks into Polly's visit to Paris, she sends one to Qwill, announcing that she's taken a three-year contract working for a local bookstore, and is having all her belongings sold to benefit the church while her cats are given up for adoption. Qwill himself recognizes it for what it is, and is most dismayed, but accepts it.
  • House Fire: Near the end of the book, Qwill's primary residence — the converted apple barn he moved into in book #12 (The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal) is discovered burning. The exact cause is never determined in-story, though it's theorized that gangs from Bixby are responsible.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: All three major mysteries in the book fall under this.
    • The cause of the two major fires in the book — the Old Hulk (which was being renovated into a senior center) and Qwill's barn — is never discovered.
    • The thieves who stole Nathan Ledfield's treasures from the museum that was to house them are never caught.
    • Libby Simms, who dies of a bee sting, is confirmed to have died of foul play when it's found someone stole her kit to counteract bee venom — but just who did so is never identified.

Alternative Title(s): The Cat Who