FLABBERGASSED by Michael Craft


A Mister Puss Mystery
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An architect tries to solve a murder with the help of a talking cat in this comic mystery novel.

California transplant Brody Norris has made a wonderful life for himself in Dumont, Wisconsin, with his husband and architectural partner, Marson. When Brody is given the opportunity to design the flagship facility for a nascent weight-loss company, he jumps at the chance even if the business itself is somewhat suspect. Dr. Francis Frumpkin’s FlabberGas system is “an overall treatment process that combines diet, exercise, and the administration of oxygen. The program is approved as safe and effective for loss of weight. What does the oxygen do? It contributes a glorious aura of well-being.” Brody is beginning to have second thoughts about his involvement even before a FlabberGas demonstration for investors results in the death of Frumpkin’s son-in-law. The man has been accidentally FlabberGassed to death. Now Brody—a problem-solver by profession—must discover who is behind this deadly bit of sabotage. To aid him in his investigation, he has Sheriff Thomas Simms and one Mister Puss, a rich local widow’s beloved cat, who some believe possesses the power of speech. Craft (Inside Dumont, 2016, etc.) writes in a crisp, lively prose that highlights the quirks of his colorful cast of characters. “A clotheshorse with a taste for custom tailoring,” goes the description of the local rug magnate, “he often donned a tux and served as escort to several of the town’s wealthier widows...but the lifelong bachelor fooled no one.” The idyllic atmosphere of Dumont—where people don’t hold many prejudices even if they can get a bit nosey—is a well-drawn setting, perfect for an exuberant, low-stakes murder mystery. Frequent readers of the genre will have little trouble guessing who the killer is, and the talking cat may strike some as a superfluous (and overly cute) element. But Craft’s talents for characterization and intricate plotting make the novel an entertaining read.

A standard mystery with some delightfully offbeat elements.

Page count: 241pp
Program: Kirkus Indie
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