“We want you to publish a weekly magazine on interior design.’ ‘On what?‘ Qwilleran said in an unintended falsetto…Qwilleran’s throat felt as if he swallowed his moustache. ‘Gracious Abodes? Is that the name of the thing?” (pg. 10)
In this book I always feel bad for Qwill, as nothing seems to go right for him.
In book two, we pick up a little time after The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, where we find Qwill eager for a new assignment. While he had some enjoyment on the art beat, art is not where he really wants to be. He wants to do something more exciting like crime, government issues, etc. However, his boss Percy (called that because of his excessive use of the phrase per se) doesn’t really go for that type of “disunity” and “abandonment” of your post.
In other news, Koko is now a proud member of the Qwill family, Monteclemen’s sister who inherited everything wants nothing to do with a cat and has allowed Qwill to keep him. The two enjoy each other’s company; they even have a new game where Koko will claw a page of a dictionary and if Qwill knows the word he gets 2 points. If he has to read the definition then Koko gets two points. This morning the words were design and desk. All in all life is plesant for the two.
However there is one troubling thing. It seems like moths are getting into all of Qwills clothes, devouring his favorite ties.
Qwill goes off to work and when he gets to the Flux everyone is congratulating him. Qwill is mystified at why, but the matter is quickly cleared up when Percy his boss tells him that he is going to head their new magazine on interior design.
He still isn’t happy, but since the new job comes with a raise he decides to try his luck at it.
It is a sort of Cribs meet Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous where he will photograph a home and discuss the interior design. A shorter version of Better Homes and Garden. Except instead of good names like those, it has the nauseating title of Gracious Abodes.
He goes to the Interior Design office of Starkweather and Lyke where he meets the laggeredly-speaking Starweather and the extremely likable David Lyke.
Now David Lyke is one of those beautiful people who can out charm anyone. Through his looks and charm he is able to get his own way. This comes in very handy when trying to get people (especially women) to buy more things to decorate their homes. He is desccribed as having brooding eyes and long eyelashes. Both of those things are sure to guarantee his commissions, I mean that gets women everytime. Look at Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, or even Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice.
Anyways I digress, so David lines Qwill up with G. Verning Tait’s estate. Tait is one of the old wealthy families. They photograph the living rooms, which also hold Tait’s very impressive jade collection. Tait takes out every single piece to be photographed and even lends some of his boooks on Jade to Qwill to read up on. They are preparing to leave when David suggests they photograph Mrs. Tait’s boudoir. She agrees as long as they photograph her and her siamese cat, who’s name is Freya according to Mrs. Tait or Yu according to Mr. Tait. (This reminds me of a cat that we adopted from previous owners. The owner called the cat Blackjack while the vet insisted it was Jackpot).
Now this book was published in 1967 so cameras then were very limited. It was hard to try and photograph a moving object along with a huge room using a wide angle lens needed to capture the room. But Mrs. Tait insists no cat no picture.
They agree, get their pictures and take off. Everything seems to be going better than expected. The magazine has no problems at the printer, everyone calls Qwill and the paper congratulating them and complimenting them on it.
Koko and Qwill play their dictionary game and the words that come up should have been evident that bad times lay ahead. These words being blood and police.
The next morning Qwill recieves a call that the Tait house has been robbed and that Mrs. Tait is dead!
All of Tait’s jade has been stolen, about $500,000 (~$3,440,000.00 today). They believe that Paolo the houseboy stole it and went home to Mexico. Mrs. Tait apparently heard something which frightened her and that caused her to have a heart attack. She’s been suffering from a weak heart so it wouldn’t have taken much to kill her. Even worse with such negative press will the magazine continue? Will anyone want to have their house published in it?
The more nagging questions revolve around the robbery itself. Why rob it the night after the magazine was published? Why not wait until it wasn’t so much of a public figure?
Qwill prepares for a party that Lyke invited him to, so that he might meet more designers and get places to photograph. Lyke lives at the Villa Verandah (VV) which while not being the best built place (known as the Architect’s revenge) is one of the most expensive. Qwill enjoys a wonderful buffet (of which we will be doing recipes from).
He meets many people there; including Bob Orax of PLUG (Planned Ugliness) and Harry Noyton businessman, billionaire, and a real people pleaser. Noyton ends up lettung Qwill stay in his apartment while he is in Denmark for the month. His apartment at VV is done Danish Modern (this is where the title comes in). Noyton is getting a divorce from his wife, as she decided she wants to give up her life for a Bohemian one (you know starving artist), but offers his house to Qwill to photograph as long as his wife okays it.
Things are going well, until Qwill finds out that his cover page for the magazine doesn’t want to be published after all. They are afraid that they might be burglarized too. So now he is stuck close to the deadline with nothing.
He hurridly appaoches Mrs. Middy, another decorator he’s met, who specializes in dormitories, for a place he might be able to photograph. He goes to her shop, arriving earlier than her and meets her assistant Alacoque Wright. By the end of his meeting he not only he manages to secure a place to photograph but also a date with Alacoque, who goes by Cokey. He and Koko play dictionary and Koko comes up with koolokamba.
The next day Qwill and his favorite photographer, Odd Bunsen, travel out to the women’s dormitory for career girls. It all goes relatively easy. Qwill moves into the VV, and Koko has fun exploring. He plays the dictionary game on Harry’s address book landing on the number for the law firm Teahandle, Burris, Hansblow, Maus & Castle. He also discovers that Harry knew Tait’s wife. Interesting.
Qwill goes out with Cokey and enjoys spending time with her. He finds out that she hates interior design and wants to be an architect, but this current job pays the bills.
The next day Qwill goes to see Tait to return the books on jade he borrowed from him, but in reality he wants to nose around a bit more. When Qwill asks how he is doing, Tait responds that he will be alright and hopes that the jade is with people who truly love and appreciate them. Qwill is very suspicious of Tait’s genial attitude.
Qwill travels to PLUG to interview Orax. PLUG is extremely ugly, as Orax admits but he is just there to make a buck, paraphrasing Shakespeare. It is Braun’s first shakespeare quote/reference of many that are throughout the book series. While meeting with Orax, Qwill finds out that a long time ago the Flux did a story that greatly angered Tait. When Qwill goes to the newspaper morgue to get the file, he discovers it has been checked out and has to wait to get it.
Qwill takes Cokey out again and they stop by David’s as he is having another party. Unfortunately this second buffet is not included in the recipe book so we won’t be making anything from them ;(. At the party he meets Natalie Noyton, who agrees to having her home photographed and published. He also hears of her plan to become a weaver and sell her stuff to interior decorators. At the party she is wearing a peachy-pink dress and shawl with gold metaliic threads. She exclaims that David will be the one to exclusively show her work. Confidentially, David tells Qwill that Natalie’s stuff is not all that good, he was only flattering his client. In fact, he has no plans whatsoever to help her. Qwill sees this as turning sour for Natalie, but its not really his place to get involved.
The guests convince him to bring Koko over, who becomes the hit of the party. Qwill ends up leaving early to take Koko home, bringing Cokey back to his loaned apartment which Cokey falls in love with it. The only one not happy is Koko. Qwill reveals some personal things about him to Cokey, such as how his luxrient salt and pepper moustache makes him feel more in tune to his surroundings, much like a cat’s whiskers. Cokey listens and agrees with him, without the slightest bit of mockery and sarcasm. Everything seems to be going well until Koko bites Cokey on the head. Qwill is in shock over such a performance.
The next day Qwill is woken early by his cat and by the phone. Is boss is frantic letting him now that the last house he photographed turned out to be a brothel.
The police sent someone undercover and blew the whole thing wide open. And right on the heels of the other incident!
Needless to say, Gracious Abodes’ days seem to be linited.
The next day Qwill and Bunsen journey out to the Noyton house, but when they get there Natalie won’t let them in. Qwill calls David furious at what is happening. David calms him down and offers his own apartment. When they get there, David pulls out all the stops. They also bring Koko over to add to the rooms, but Koko, like all cats are not always agreeable when a camera comes out.
To celebrate a job well-done Qwill and his photographer go out, where his Bunsen gets extremely sloshed. When they come back to Qwill’s place, they discover that Koko is missing. He was left outside on a harness and managed to slip out, and jump across the five feet way to David’s apartment. Bunson decides to follow to get the cat. As Qwill waits for Bunson to return, Bunson calls Qwill to tell him that David is dead. Bunson discovered the body.
Qwill contemplates Davd’s death. Who would want to kill him? He may have been a back-stabber but he charmed people easily. Could it be jealousy? Of David? Or maybe a jealous husband or boyfriend? What had Koko seen?
Now the cover for this book actually makes sense as David is shot. The original cover is kind of cute as Koko is playing the dictionary game and is wearing a Sherlock Holmes type oufit. The new one is really boring as it just has a cat on the cover.
As Qwill is trying to uncover more about David he finds out that two people disliked him the most Jacques Boulanger and Mrs. Middy’s assistant, Cokey.
As Qwill interviews Jacques Boulanger he discovers that David was born on the wrong side of the tracks and changed his hair and name, riding on charm. Boulanger used to grow up with him, and went the same route, except that he went to Paris to change himself. He has no reason to have killed David, as he is deeply sad to have lost one of his best competitors. This leaves Qwill at a loss for who it could be.
Things in the newspaper world are not going as well as expected either. Percy is starting to believe that Qwill is a jinx and that maybe he should take the magazne away from him and give to Qwill’s nemesis Fran Ungar. With a theft, raid, and murder following every issue; you can’t really blame the guy. This is why I always feel bad for Qwill when I read this book. Nothing seems to go quite right for him.
To make things worse, Qwill discovers Koko is eating wool! His clothes, Harry’s chair–it’s not the moths! He ends up going to a psyCATitrist and discovers that Koko is in need of a playmate. He’s not used to having his master gone all the time. He also finds out that Koko bit Cokey because she has a similar name. They make plans for him to adopt Tait’s cat.
Qwill goes to see Cokey, now called Al to appease Koko, and discusses many things with her. One is the Tait case. Qwill thinks that Tait hid the jade as an insurance scam, believing that Koko knows what is happening and is pointing him in Tait’s direction. After all he choose koolokamba which is an ape that is bald on his head but hairy everywhere else. Exactly what Tait looks like. Koko also choose bald, sacroliac (which Tait suffers from), ruddiness, and rubeola (both of which descibe his skin).
Qwill finally receives a the Tait file and a copy of the photographs taken by Bunson. When he reads the file he sees that Tait had a paternity case that the Flux really played up, causing Tait to have an extreme hatred for the newspaper. He hears from Bunson that Tait will be leaving the country soon and knows that his time is running out. He calls Tait to set up an appointment to get the cat, hoping he will have figured out more by then.
To find more information, Qwill sets up an appointment with Tait’s ex-housekeeper. After he sherries her up, he discovers that Tait isn’t as rich as he has been showing himsef to be. In fact, he lost a fortune on a jade mountain that didn’t pan out.
Koko goes over to the photographs that Qwill left out and licks one. After Qwill yells at Koko he takes a closer look on it and discovers that there is a thin line going down the cabinent that held the jade. In fact it looks like it holds a secret area.
The next day Qwill takes Koko down to Taits. When Tait leaves the room he examines the cabinet and discovers that it does hold a secret compartment. Inside is all of Tait’s jade that was supposedly taken. Qwill is so intent on the case that he doesn’t even hear Tait appraoch him. As Tait attempts to stab Qwill with a jade spear, Koko stages one of his whilrwind cat flights and knocks Tait over having tied him up with his leash.
The next day Qwill reveals all to his press buddies. Tait had lost most of his money as he wasn’t a very good buisnessman. He also hated the Flux for playing up that paternity case all those years ago. When they came to photograph his home he saw the perfect time to try to rip off the insurance company. He gave Paolo, his houseboy, enough money to return home, giving him two of his largest suitcases. After he left, he put a piece of jade under the bed to implicate him. He put the rest in the secret compartment, planning on skipping town with the jade and the dugh.
Qwill returns home happy to have solved one case, cleared himself of any fault for the robbery, and pleased that Koko has a new roommate to keep him happy. He renames her Yum Yum after the Gilbert & Sullivan opera, (one of the many G&S references Braun will make). Qwill hears from Noyton that his buisness in Denmark has blossomed. Apparently Mrs. Tait got a hold of Noyton to bankroll her scientist brother in Denmark, this brother who has created a calorie free beer that has vitimin C. (This invention actually was created 43 years later.)
At home Koko has lost his stuffed mouse. Once again he has trapped it under a cabinent. Qwill uses an umbrella to oust it and discovers a peachy-pink ball of fluff that has gold slivers. Immediately Qwill calls the police. When they go to arrest Natalie they discover her body in her house. Apparently she was in love with David and left her husband, giving up her ideas and any notion of alimony because she thought David was going to marry her. When she found out that David had no interest in doing so or selling her creations she became so upset that she killed him. She lived with the guilt for one day before she committed suicide, ODing on pills.
For all of Koko’s help with solving the past two crimes, he is rewarded a press badge .
Later Qwill still has so many questions regarding Koko. Did he pretend to be neurotic to get a friend? How much of those words being choosen were chance and how much were done by Koko by some sort of power? Did he purposely push his mouse under the cabinent to get Qwill to discover what happened to David? Or was Koko just being a cat? Will Qwill ever know?
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