Barrowcliffe's third novel (Infidelity for First-Time Fathers) is another exercise in deadpan drollery with a hapless everyman at its center-but an ambitious strain of fantasy sets it apart, bringing him out of Nick Hornby's shadow and into John Irving territory. The hero this time out is thirtysomething single Dave Barker, who narrates. Emotionally stunted Dave has spent the last decade caring for his terminally ill mother and marking time at his failing real estate office with tart assistant Lucy. When mom dies, Dave thinks his adult life might finally begin, and that he might even take the next step, with Lyndsey, his girlfriend of four years. But then Gilbert and Reg walk into Dave's office-man and dog, respectively. Gilbert and has a heart attack, and Dave inherits Reg who, it turns out, has the gift of speech, but can only be understood by Dave; others hear it as excessive barking. Lyndsey, needless to say, is not enamored of Reg, and the quest to unload him leads Dave to a talking cat named Michael, his pig sidekick who also talks (but more tersely) and temporary wealth via a lucrative poker game. More comic complications follow, including an accidental killing, a hilarious funeral and a sticky real estate scam. Barrowcliffe's winning style and light comic touch make this a twisty page-turner of a different breed.