DiscoverMystery & Crime

The Femdom Felony

By

Loved it! 😍

A fun mystery with richly rendered characters and settings. Loved the understanding the author showed toward BDSM and LGBTQ communities!

Synopsis

A shocking murder takes place in Calgary’s BDSM community and the police have identified Jay Mitchell as a prime suspect. Jay fears his innocence may not matter, as official pressure mounts to resolve the case, and undertakes his own search for the murderer. Navigating the underground world of sexual fetishes and its unusual inhabitants is difficult at the best of times. Now it’s even harder with a killer on the loose. The hunt takes him to a fetish ball, the Calgary Stampede and into the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, all against the backdrop of a looming ‘ethical oil’ rally, that the ‘Green Guard’ have vowed to disrupt, as part of the ongoing local battle over the future of fossil fuels.

By day, Jay Mitchell is a computer technician for the city of Calgary. He keeps his lifestyle as a live-in submissive to a dominant mistress separate from his work life. But when his mistress, the Catwoman, is found murdered, Jay’s lifestyle becomes public knowledge as he turns into the police’s top suspect. Desperate to find the Catwoman’s killer even while being pursued by authorities himself, Jay plays amateur detective as he questions various members of the BDSM community about the last people seen with the Catwoman. But he soon discovers that the crime is bigger than he could have imagined, going far beyond one subculture to involve corporations, nonprofits, and even ecoterrorists.


The Femdom Felony is a fun, richly rendered mystery that is sensitive to the communities it portrays. Perhaps the greatest strength of the novel is its deep understanding of BDSM culture, norms, and safety procedures. Although there is some conflation of kink and sex, Moffatt does a great job of explaining BDSM in a way that’s accessible to vanilla readers who might not understand the philosophy behind power exchange. For readers involved in the community, The Femdom Felony is a refreshing escape: Jay’s deep experience with BDSM community shows through in the way he takes safety and consent seriously, allowing the reader to relax and not have to worry about insensitive portrayals of a community that often faces heavy stigma. Additionally, Moffatt’s decision to add a parallel story about Terry, a trans woman, helping Toni, a young queer man, escape from his abusive situation worked well for the narrative. In showing the horrific abuse Toni endures, Moffatt is clear to distinguish how such abuse is antithetical to the tenets of Safe, Sane, and Consensual BDSM. When those tenets are violated later by the villains, the reader has a full sense of why that violation is egregious.


Moffatt’s characters are richly rendered. I wish I knew more about the Catwoman and was unhappy that she was fridged for the story, but the other characters had well-developed backstories and felt like real people. Jay doesn’t appear to be LGBTQ, but he allies with the community because of the overlapping stigmas they both face. The LGBTQ side characters feel multifaceted, and Moffatt does a wonderful job of providing backstories that involve abuse, homelessness, and other difficult situations without lingering on them as tragedies, or as titillating, voyeuristic looks into people’s lives. Rather, Moffatt’s characters are people who have survived those experiences. They have stories other than “issue stories,” and they all have their own interests, motivations, and personalities outside of the subcultures they’re involved in. Even when they engage in kinks I don’t share, I can appreciate why they gravitate to them, as the characters’ psyches are well-defined. Moffatt not only humanizes people who are often marginalized, but also shows that those facets of a person’s identity are only a small part of their complex lives.


I found myself totally engrossed in the worldbuilding of The Femdom Felony as well. The novel is set in present-day Calgary, Alberta. I use “worldbuilding” here not to mean divergences from our real-life world, as in a secondary world, but rather all the efforts the author has put into establishing a sense of setting. Moffatt’s descriptions of Calgary are vivid and show a deep understanding of the city. I often have difficulty following characters’ geographical and spatial locations when they’re involved in a chase or other action scenes, but Moffatt has no trouble orienting the reader. The details are specific, creating a lived-in sense of place. Even bits of infodump-like exposition were fascinating and showed a love for the city.


The plot itself was easy to follow and well-paced for a thriller. The ending is fairly open, but it suits the narrative. There were only a few things that detracted from the narrative for me. One was that I didn’t appreciate the ableism in the moment when Miss Stacey apologizes for Trixie Torment’s threatening behavior by saying, “She’s bipolar and she doesn’t always stick to her meds.” Moffatt tries so hard to depict the BDSM community as made up of a lot of individuals, including individual bad actors, that it feels jarring to see an entire group of people marginalized with such a dismissive statement. The second issue I had was one that I often run into in real-life BDSM spaces: almost everyone is White. I would have been able to set that aside and ignore it for the sake of the rest of the story, but I was then disappointed to see subtle stereotypes about Asians, first as a group of tourists, then as exploited housekeepers, and finally as servers speaking nonstandard English. Of course, there are indeed Asians who meet all those descriptions, but the overall effect felt like having a few extras in the background of the movie who are thought of as little more than props. Again, a gap that seems incongruent with Moffatt’s otherwise sensitive portrayal of many other groups.


Overall, The Femdom Felony is a fun mystery novel that doesn’t shy away from exploring the repercussions for each character’s actions. The world and people are excellently written, and I love that I now have a great example of a work that respects BDSM and is accessible to both vanilla and kinky readers. I hope to see more erotica mysteries from Moffatt soon.

Reviewed by

S. Qiouyi Lu writes, translates, and edits between two coasts of the Pacific. Their work has appeared in Asimov’s, F&SF, and Strange Horizons, and their translations have appeared in Clarkesworld. They edit the magazine Arsenika. You can find out more about S. at their website, s.qiouyi.lu.

Synopsis

A shocking murder takes place in Calgary’s BDSM community and the police have identified Jay Mitchell as a prime suspect. Jay fears his innocence may not matter, as official pressure mounts to resolve the case, and undertakes his own search for the murderer. Navigating the underground world of sexual fetishes and its unusual inhabitants is difficult at the best of times. Now it’s even harder with a killer on the loose. The hunt takes him to a fetish ball, the Calgary Stampede and into the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, all against the backdrop of a looming ‘ethical oil’ rally, that the ‘Green Guard’ have vowed to disrupt, as part of the ongoing local battle over the future of fossil fuels.

The Catwoman

Jay did not want to be seen walking around with an exposed, erect penis, not even a fake one. Having people notice it, laugh at it and point him out, was humiliating. When it happened before, earlier in the week, he felt like crawling away to hide. He didn’t want to go through that again. That’s why he was careful to cover it, with the car’s emergency blanket, before going up to the house.


He carried the blanket-draped Sybian across the gravel parking pad, next to the back lane behind the house. There were several neighbours whose windows were visible from here, who might be witnessing his arrival. It’s embarrassing carrying sex toys around in public, Jay thought. Did the Catwoman plan it? She certainly enjoyed humiliating people, like when she made him go out shopping with no underwear, or wear a dog collar to the nightclubs. Thinking back, it was suspicious the way she had hustled him out to the car, when sending him to the shop that agreed to fix her Sybian. The riding sex toy featured a saddle-like box, crowned with a big motorized dildo. He was sure she revelled in the thought of the embarrassment he felt when dealing with the staff at the small engine repair service.  No doubt she’d also be pleased to find out he’d been the subject of stares and comments in the strip mall parking lot, because he hadn’t thought to cover the machine when he carried it into the store.


Jay couldn’t deny the whole situation gave him a thrill as well. The shame he felt being put in a demeaning situation reinforced the sense of power and control he ceded to his partner. It was an exchange tinged with carnal implications. He always liked bossy women. That led him to spend a lot of time on the internet, searching for a mistress. Now, he was trying a weekly service arrangement with the Catwoman. It was a pact that meant living at her house three days a week and on those days, he followed her commands and catered to her desires.


Jay struggled up the steps of the rear deck at the Catwoman’s bungalow with the Sybian. The mechanical beast was by no means lightweight. He hadn’t talked to the Catwoman this past week. His recent text messages had gone unanswered and he wondered what she had planned for the weekend. Putting the bulky riding toy down on the deck, he unlocked the back door. Then he lifted the sex machine with care, bending both knees, and eased it into the house. He peered around the device, which was blocking his view, trying to avoid tripping hazards.


“Drop it!” came a shout from the living room. Startled, Jay almost did drop the Sybian, but instead lowered it hastily to the floor. He looked up from a crouch to see two figures pointing guns at him. A man from the far end of the living room and a woman, near the entrance to the kitchen. “Hands in the air!” barked the woman.


Thieves! thought Jay. His instincts told him to run, and the door was still open behind him. He spun around and was up and out the door in a flash. He cut to the left, running alongside the house towards the front yard. As he ran up the narrow walkway, he could hear the furious pounding of footsteps behind him. At least one person was chasing him and coming up fast. He put on as much speed as he could, but began to fear his pursuer was faster.


Bursting out into the front yard, he took a quick look and made for the gap between two parked cars. As he angled across the lawn, he was hit from behind by a flying tackle. They fell hard to the grass and he heard a woman’s voice saying, “Got ya, dirtbag.” A hand pressed his head down into the grass, grinding his face into the dirt. Then one arm was wrenched behind his back and he heard a familiar sound. Handcuffs. She was clamping handcuffs onto his wrist.


“You’re going to the station, pal,” she announced, pulling back on his other arm and cuffing it to the first. The other gun-wielder came running up.


“Good work, partner,” he said.


The woman grabbed him and rolled him over, causing a sharp pain in his shoulders. “Hey, lay off!” yelled Jay.


Still straddling him with her knees, the woman seized him by the shirtfront, lifting his torso up off the lawn. “Where’s the knife?”


He got a first good look at his assailant. She had a high forehead, squarish nose, generous lips and dark brown eyes. They didn’t look like the eyes of a maniacal crook. The ‘partner’ and ‘station’ comments penetrated, as she shook him and repeated, “Where’s the knife, scumbag?” They sounded like cops.


“What knife? What’s going on?”


“Don’t give me that crap,” said the guy. “Tell us where you hid it and things will go easier for you.”


“I’m starting to think you’re police officers that didn’t announce yourselves,” said Jay.


“That’s a load of bull,” returned the guy, leaning over. “I yelled ‘Police’.”


The girl got up and then grabbed an arm, hauling him to his feet. Jay managed to work his cuffed wrists into a more bearable position.


“I’m Detective Holland and this is Detective Doucette,” she said, waving a thumb at her partner. Doucette was a stocky white guy with short, dark hair. “You want to tell us what you were doing in there?” she asked.  


“I live here,” he answered. “What are you doing here?”


“Let’s take him to the station, where we can grill this asshole properly,” said Doucette. He grabbed Jay by the arm.


“Wait, is Debbie okay?” asked Jay.


Detective Holland said, “No. Miss Nickleson is dead. It looks like a homicide.”


Jay felt the spirit go out of him. He slumped in Detective Doucette’s grip. “Shit,” he said. “Killed with a knife?”


“I’m going to check you for weapons,” said Detective Doucette. “Stand still.” He patted down Jay’s upper limbs.


A couple of the neighbours had come out to see what was going on. Detective Holland went over to them and flashed a badge. Jay heard her telling them to stay back.


“Spread ‘em,” snapped Doucette. When Jay spread his legs, Doucette continued the pat-down to his ankles. “No knife here,” he announced.


A couple of police black and whites pulled up, using lights but no sirens. Doucette went to consult with them, while Holland stayed with Jay. More neighbours started to gather and Jay could hear them talking.


“Too bad, he seemed like a nice guy.” This from a young father of two Jay had recently helped with some boxes. He and his family were newly moved in across the street.


“Yeah,” responded old man Kiprusoff from next door. “He loaned me his weed-whacker just last week.”


The growing group of spectators was being moved back and cordoned off by uniformed officers. An ambulance joined the collection of official vehicles out front, and a stretcher was wheeled inside. Holland took Jay over to a police car and told the officer there to take Jay to the station.


The uniformed policeman put Jay in the back seat of his car. He squawked the tires as they pulled away from the curb. Jay sat in sombre silence during the ride, trying to absorb the fact that the Catwoman was dead.


The interrogation, when it started, went on for hours. The detectives told him he had the right to call a lawyer, but suggested only a guilty person would refuse to cooperate. Jay volunteered to answer some questions, declaring his interest in finding out what happened to the Catwoman. Holland and Doucette adopted tag-team questioning as the hours went on, during which Jay learned they also went by Christine and Jordan. Since it was a Friday, Jay was thankful he didn’t have to go to work the next day. Jay denied killing anyone. He explained his part-time live-in schedule. It started on Friday nights after work and lasted until Monday, when he would typically return to his own apartment in a different neighbourhood. Sometimes he would overnight on other days as well. He had a fair supply of clothing and toiletries at the Catwoman’s house.


Doucette liked the bad cop role and used it to air his prejudices about Jay’s relationship.


“Relationship! Where do you get off calling all this disgusting pervert stuff a relationship? We saw all that bondage and whipping stuff in the basement. Admit it! You took one of your rape games too far and when she protested, you killed her,” accused Doucette. “You had her tied up and you raped her. Maybe she threatened to call the cops.”


“She was the dominant one in our relationship,” said Jay. “She was a mistress and I served her as a submissive. If anyone would be in bondage, it would be me.”


“Then maybe she threatened to expose what a nasty pervert you are to the world,” said Doucette. “Where were you on Tuesday night?”


“At home,” said Jay. “Alone,” he added.


“Have you got any way to verify that?” asked Doucette. Jay thought about it. He had a security camera at home, but it was only a test installation pointed at the corner with his desk. He doubted it would show anything.


“I rented a movie, The Shape Of Water, through my T.V.,” said Jay. “I don’t know if they keep records of that stuff.”


“You didn’t talk to any people?” pressed Doucette. Jay could only say no.


“We’ll need your phone number,” said Holland, shoving a pad of paper towards Jay. “Did you make any calls to the police today?’’


“No.”


“Does anyone else have a key to Debbie’s house?” Holland asked.


“Yes, there’s a guy named Alan,” Jay told her. “He has his own key. He helped furnish the play room. About half of the equipment in there is his. Debbie lets him use the play space for meetings with his submissives. He always calls ahead to arrange a time.”


“Alan who?” Holland asked. Unfortunately, Jay couldn’t tell her. He had only met Alan once in passing and never got his last name.


Eventually, he decided to stop speaking to them. It was early in the morning when they let Jay go.


“Your movie rental story checked out,” said Holland, as she escorted him out of interrogation. “Someone rented a movie on your account on Tuesday night. It’s not much of an alibi. You could have done it from your phone. We’ll probably nail down that story soon, but in the meantime you’re free to go.”


“Call when you’re ready to confess,” said Doucette, shoving a card in Jay’s shirt pocket. “Don’t leave town.”


“I’m telling you, I didn’t kill anyone,” said Jay.


“I mean it, don’t leave town.” Doucette pointed a finger at him. Holland pulled him away. 


Jay found himself standing on 17th Avenue in the early dawn light of a Saturday morning. He pulled out his phone and saw there was some battery left, enough to make a call.


“Terry? Can you give me a ride? I’m stranded at the police station in Rosscarrock. And I’ve got some bad news. The Catwoman is dead.”


He stood on the street waiting for his friend and watching the traffic. It was a main road and even at this hour there were a number of vehicles stirring.


“Jay, over here!”


He turned to see Terry waving at him from beside her car. She’d found a parking spot on a side street. This morning her blonde hair was complimented by a blue dress. When Jay approached, she gave him a hug.


“How horrible,” she said. “Are you okay?”


 “I’m tired and depressed,” said Jay, “but I’m too old to cry. Maybe I’ll get drunk.”


“Come over, I’ll spike a coffee for you,” said Terry.


They got into the car and Jay noticed the stubble on Terry’s cheeks.


“You need a shave,” he said.


“I know,” said Terry. “The things I do for friends, running out of the house at some ungodly hour without putting my face on.”


Terry Gilford was a pre-operative male transitioning to a woman. Jay had met her through the Catwoman. They were just friends, in spite of Jay’s fit form and dirty-blonde good looks. Terry was quite a bit older.


“I thought you were getting electrolysis,” said Jay.


“It costs too much,” Terry replied. “I need to save up for surgery. Afterwards I’ll have years to work on electrolysis.” 


A short time later they were at Terry’s kitchen table. Terry broke out a bottle of brandy, and they used it to fortify their coffee.


“To the Catwoman,” toasted Terry, raising her mug.


“The Catwoman,” Jay responded. “I can’t believe she’s dead.”


“Dammit,” said Terry, “she was always good to me. She was helping me fight with the government, to get money for my operation. Now that I’m on hormones, I don’t want to wait.”


“She didn’t have any enemies that I know of.”


“No, but being a mistress, you meet a lot of weirdos,” said Terry.


“It’s true, BDSM appeals to a lot of damaged types. Or as Debbie and I prefer calling it, D&S. I mean preferred, we preferred…,” Jay put his head in his hands.


Terry put a hand on Jay’s shoulder. “You’re right, ‘Dominance and Submission’ is a good term for it. How long were you two together?”


“Almost two years.” Jay raised his head. “You know I’m the number one suspect. They always suspect the boyfriend, especially the live-in boyfriend.”


“What about Alan, the guy that uses the bondage room? He should be a suspect.”


“Yeah, it could be him, or someone with access to his key. I have to ask around and see if I can get ahold of him. Debbie had his number.”


“How did they discover she was dead?”


“I think they got an anonymous call. They asked me if I made any phone calls to the police yesterday.”


“What are you going to do now? You need to get a good lawyer,” said Terry. She flipped back the hair of her blonde wig.


“I’m going to have to figure out who did it,” said Jay. “I need to retrace her steps and find out who she was with on Tuesday. Maybe they can give me some clue to what happened.”


“That sounds impossible,” replied Terry. “You should leave it to the police.”


“If I do that,” said Jay, “There’s a good chance I’ll end up in jail. It’s my best hope.”


“Well, I can get you started,” said Terry. “I got dressed up and went to kink night at the Backdoor Club on Tuesday and I saw Debbie there.”


“Really?” Jay looked up. “Did you talk to her?”


“No, I didn’t. I just saw her for a minute or two when I got there around eight o’clock. Then I got busy doing my own thing with the girls, and I didn’t see her again.”


“Did you see who she was with?”


“I can’t say I paid much attention, sorry,” said Terry. “Although one woman had on a killer full-length gown. Oh!” Terry put a hand to her mouth, after using that upsetting word.


“Don’t sweat it,” said Jay, patting Terry’s other hand. “I guess I know where I’m going the next time the Backdoor has a kink night.” Unfortunately, it meant a wait until Tuesday, because the Backdoor Club only did ‘kink night’ once a week.  


Terry gave Jay a ride to the Catwoman’s house to pick up his car. The door to the house was covered with yellow crime scene tape and the car’s contents were strewn around by a careless searcher. Even the radio was pulled out of the dash and lying on the floor. Jay drove home to collapse on the bed, fully clothed.


About the author

A writer of mystery novels from Alberta, Canada. I have a history in mining, the oilpatch, computers, government and politics. My current passion is climate action. view profile

Published on March 20, 2020

80000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Mystery & Crime

Reviewed by

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