Normal cats may have nine lives, but this is the 23rd life for Lilian Jackson Braun's cats, who are back with another episode in the life of the good folks in Moose County, 400 miles north of everywhere. These books can be found in the mystery section, but readers know that the stories are more about Jim Qwilleran and his two precocious Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum. Qwilleran is a former journalist from down below, but became the benefactor of an entire region when he inherited a fortune and established a foundation to give away the money. Now he writes a popular column and generally involves himself in the lives of his neighbors, including his librarian friend Polly.

This latest finds Qwill and the Siamese on the trail of a murder. The old Pickax Hotel has been renovated after being bombed, and grand opening ceremonies have been timed to coordinate with other activities guaranteed to excite the northlanders. A Chicago jewelry dealer, accompanied by his attractive young niece, is visiting to buy the antique jewelry of wealthy, elderly women in town and to offer quality pieces for sale. And the eagerly anticipated Scottish gathering and highland games have the town abuzz. Qwill is honoring his Scottish ancestry by getting out his best kilt.

The jewelry dealer, however, is found murdered, and the champion of the claber toss at the highland games is considered the chief suspect.

The cats start generating clues by stepping on the phone as it's about to ring, yowling in the middle of the night at the exact time the murder takes place, chewing on pencils, hiding gum wrappers, and stealing the pennies intended to be dropped into an antique mechanical bank (thus the title of the book).

Readers of this best-selling series will welcome the return of the entire litter of unusual people. But be cautious about wearing a kilt and having cats on your lap!

George Cowmeadow Bauman is the co-owner of the Acorn Bookshop in Columbus, Ohio, and wrote this with two Siamese cats sharing his desktop.

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