Jim Qwilleran is a newspaperman who is about to find a new calling in life - caregiver to an extraordinary cat who likes gourmet food, reads newspaper headlines backwards, and helps Qwill solve murders.
Years earlier Qwill had been an award-winning crime reporter and had even authored a best-selling book on urban crime. But when his marriage fell apart so did his life. At the beginning of the novel Qwill is getting his life back on track and accepts a job with a large Midwestern newspaper, the Daily Fluxion, writing features on local artists, not their actual work, just the artists themselves.
George Bonifield Mountclemens III, the art critic for the Daily Fluxion, is hated passionately by most of the artists in the city, primarily because he has said horribly vicious things about their work. Mountclemens lives in a grand old house to which he is passionately devoted, even though it is in a shabby part of town. He has an extensive art collection, is a gourmet cook, and lives with an extraordinary cat named Kao K’o-Kung.
After Mountclemens rents one of the downstairs apartments in his large house to Qwill he feels free to call upon his new tenant to run errands for him and look after the cat when he goes out of town.
Although Qwill is somewhat insulted by his landlord’s demands and demeanor he does enjoy the cat’s company, and begins calling him “Koko” for short. When Mountclemens returns from his trip Qwill feels lonely and disappointed that he won’t be enjoying the cat’s companionship anymore.
There are some mysterious and suspicious deaths in the art community, and suspicion even falls upon the much-hated critic, Mountclemens. But Qwill feels quite safe in scratching his name off the list of suspects when Koko leads him to the body of the slain art critic.
Through clues given by the heroic Siamese, and feelings intuited through his large and impressive moustache, Qwill discovers the unpleasant truth and figures out the identity of a murderer just before an attempt is made on his own life. Fortunately for Qwill, Koko is a fast-thinker and helps out his new friend at just the right time.
This is the first “Cat Who” book written by Lillian Jackson Braun. Originally published in 1966, it was followed in 1967 by “The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern,” and in 1968 by “The Cat Who Turned On and Off.” The next book in the series, “The Cat Who Saw Red,” was not published until 1986, but it picks up where the previous book left off. Each book builds on the past books in the series, and characters who appear in one may not appear in the book immediately following, but might show up in later adventures. “The Cat Who Could Read Backwards” is enjoyable reading, and it also lays a good foundation for the rest