In the idyllic little town of Dumont, Wisconsin, wealthy widow Mary Questman adopts an exotic stray cat, Mister Puss, who begins to talk to her. At least she thinks so. Mary’s young friend, gay architect Brody Norris, soon finds another reason to worry about Mary’s judgment when she decides to help finance a bizarre weight-loss enterprise called FlabberGas, the invention of a flamboyant local dermatologist, Dr. Francis Frumpkin.
Brody’s skepticism is partially overcome when Dr. Frumpkin commissions him to design the first of a planned chain of FlabberGas clinics. But then, during a public demonstration of Frumpkin’s gimmicky new treatment, a volunteer is gassed to death in a hideous mishap that turns out to be no accident. It was murder, all right. Suspects abound. And Brody is drawn into the role of amateur sleuth, assisting Sheriff Thomas Simms.
Funny and tender, thoroughly tangled, with a chilling motive at its core, the mystery comes to a jolting conclusion when Brody pieces together tiny, overlooked details and helps Sheriff Simms name the killer. Along the way, though, Brody himself gets a little help — or so it seems — from the chatty Mister Puss.
“Crisp, lively prose … colorful cast of characters … a well-drawn setting, perfect for an exuberant murder mystery … delightfully offbeat.” — Kirkus Reviews
“What an elegant mystery. What an absurd idea made irresistible and almost mystical at the hands of a gifted writer. A talking cat? Yes … Mister Puss. The best cat in all of modern fiction.” — Ulysses Dietz, Backlot Gay Book Forum
“The new ‘Mister Puss’ mystery series opens with one of the most intriguing introductions seen in the mystery genre … FlabberGassed is quirky, original, and a delightful read.” — D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
from the author.
WHILEFlabberGassed represents an entirely new direction for my writing (a book-length cat mystery), it also marks a return to the genre for which I have been best known in the past (gay mysteries). FlabberGassed: A Mister Puss Mystery is intended as the first installment in a new series that brings together several aspects of my prior novels that longtime readers will probably recognize.
For example, my first Mark Manning mystery, Flight Dreams (1997), prominently featured Abyssinian cats, a breed I know and love. Further, the fictitious setting of small-town Dumont was developed throughout the last five volumes of the Mark Manning series and then figured centrally in my short-story collection, Inside Dumont (2016), long after Manning had left town. Inside Dumont also introduced the character of Brody Norris, a gay architect with a clever knack for problem-solving.
The idea for a mystery series based on the whimsical premise of a talking cat started to develop for me after I published a prize-winning short story, “Mister Puss,” in 2017. Encouraged by reader feedback, I decided to feature the chatty feline as a quirky supporting character in a new series with a distinctive subtitle bearing the cat’s name instead of the sleuth’s. The original short story—revised and condensed—now stands at the beginning of FlabberGassed as something of a prologue.
As to Mister Puss himself, there’s a lingering
FlabberGassed was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by the international Cat Writers’ Association, and the book thereby became
a finalist for the Muse Medallion honoring the best cat-mystery
novel of 2018.
question throughout the book: Does the cat really talk? I have tried to leave the answer open-ended. Realistically, we know the cat is not capable of human speech, but he does seem to communicate—through his purr, somehow—first to Mary Questman and eventually to our sleuth and narrator, Brody Norris. Ultimately, then, it’s left to each reader to decide how much “suspension of disbelief” can be allowed.
But here’s a clue: the story is more fun if you just go with it. I hope you’ll enjoy reading FlabberGassed as much as I enjoyed writing it.