Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Amuse Bouche: Anthony Bidulka

I found this story to be a fast-paced mystery that held my interest and left me eager to continue with the series. I liked the main character. Russell Quant is a private detective, and to this point in his career he has had small, nondescript cases. Now he has a case where a wealthy client has hired him to find his missing lover, Tom Osborn. The client, Harold Clavell, and Osborn were going to be married in a private ceremony, and Osborn just never showed up. The evidence points to Tom having run off to France, where the two were supposed to spend their honeymoon. Quant takes a trip to Paris to find the missing man... and some answers for his client.

There were several aspects of Anthony Bidulka's writing that I enjoyed. The story is told in first person, which works well in private detective stories. The details of the everyday lives of gays and lesbians are included in an unobtrusive way. Russell is gay (and unattached) and he is investigating the disappearance of another gay man's lover. Another enjoyable aspect is the use of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as the setting. Knowing very little about any province in Canada, I liked the introduction to the area.

A small thing, but I really liked Russell's dog and Russell's relationship with the dog and that Russell has a normal, non-work life with friends and pets. He feels like a real person dealing with a real, although somewhat exotic, case. I mean, he gets to jet off to France.

I have some small criticisms, but none that ruined my enjoyment as a whole. I thought the book was too long. Not sure what I would shave off, but parts of it went on too long. He either spent too much time in France, or the resolution should have been tied up sooner.

This wasn't my usual type of mystery. I don't normally choose light, humorous mysteries. Note that I am not saying it is lightweight, just light in tone. Comments I read prior to reading Amuse Bouche indicated that there is a lot of humor. I did not find the book that humorous. This is not a criticism. I think I am lacking some fundamental humor gene. Regardless, I liked the upbeat feel of the book. Keeping in mind that this was Bidulka's debut novel, I am sure I will enjoy Russell's other cases. There are seven more in the series.

At samesame.com, Anthony Bidulka talks about his writing...
I knew a little about travel and food and wine. I knew about Saskatchewan. I knew about being a gay man on the Canadian prairies. I knew about seeking new directions, following passion, which is what Russell Quant does in the books. It turns out this was the successful combination for me, and just the thing to create a series that truly distinguished me from my colleagues.
If you are like me and wonder what "amuse-bouche" means, here is one definition from wordsmith.org.
This is a tidbit, often tiny, served as a free extra to keep you happy while you are waiting for your first course to come. It gives you an idea of the chef's approach to cooking and the restaurant's attention to your appetite.
And this is the perfect title for this book, because this is a taste of Bidulka’s approach to writing and mystery, and whets the appetite for more.

As a last thought, this is from Anthony Bidulka's page at Amazon (US).
One of my favourite sayings is: Life is short, but it can be wide. I try to remember to do whatever I can to make my life wide, wide with people and places and extraordinary experiences. And I am grateful for every second of it so far and every second of it yet to come. 
I think that attitude is reflected in his writing, and I admire that.

16 comments:

  1. TracyK: I am glad you enjoyed meeting Russell. He is one of my favourite characters. I acknowledge being biased as Saskatoon is 175 km from my home and I know Anthony and some members of his family. I think you will continue to enjoy the books. I think of Russsell as witty more than humorous.

    Anthony does an excellent job of portraying Saskatoon. Maybe you will be tempted to come to see Saskatchewan.

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    1. Russell really grew on me gradually as I read. You are right about the wit.

      I would love to see Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, I don't do well with traveling. But who knows. Never say never.

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  2. I've heard all about this book from Bill's excellent review. I don't usually read amusing crime fiction but this sounds so attractive. And I like anything with a dog in it....

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    1. This book is definitely worth a try, and I don't know if it makes much difference where you start in the series.

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  3. Tracy - Thanks for your thoughtful review. I too like the relationship between Quant his dog, and yes, Bidulka does a great job of depicting the setting and of creating an appealing character. I very much hope you'll try and enjoy the rest of the series; I'm a fan of it.

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    1. Definitely going for the next one. Soon, I hope. This is the good thing about the Canadian challenge -- trying a book I would not normally go for, and liking it.

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  4. I must say that I find Russell Quant amusing. I read Flight of Aquavit to get through a difficult time for diversion -- and it worked. I smiled and laughed as I read it.

    It wasn't so much the mystery itself, but the characters, including Russell's Ukrainian mother who moves in for awhile and insists on cooking the most high-calorie, high-cholesterol meals for him, which frankly had me hankering for broccoli and apples, anything healthy.

    If you like dogs, there are two in this book, Russell's dog and a friend's. The two dogs are related and have fun together, which adds another nice touch to the book.

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    1. I am looking forward to reading more about Russell Quant, Kathy. Per your suggestion at other posts, I will be finding a copy at abebooks.com soon.

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  5. Really sounds like fun TracyK and I'm usually a sucker for first person narration too - thanks very much.

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    1. My pleasure. Margot introduced me to him and then I saw posts at Bill's blog. I am glad I gave this series a try.

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  6. Never read any mysteries with a man in the lead. Because I always went for strong willed woman protagonist.I think it is high time I bring about a change....

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    1. I think you would like this one. Worth a try. I think I probably lean to reading more about male protagonists and books by male writers. Not intentionally.

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  7. Tracy,
    I'm so glad you gave the first Russell Quant book, Amuse Bouche a try, and especially pleased that you enjoyed it. Thank you for your thoughtful review. If you continue with the rest of the series, I hope the experience is as pleasurable!
    Happy reading!

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    1. Flight of Aquavit is making its way to me through the mail right now. I will be reading it in the next few months. Also plan to try the Adam Saint book when it comes out. Happy writing!

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  8. Always great to find a new author - especially a Canadian one!! Was setting up my reading plan for the next Canadian Reading Challenge and found your review (via the Global Reading Challenge!). Thanks, Tracy, for introducing me to a fellow Canadian.

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    1. Debra, thanks for stopping by. I hope you try Anthony Bidulka. He also has a new series (that I have not tried yet). I have consulted your blog for reviews of Canadian authors. Joining the Canadian challenge has introduced me to some really interesting authors.

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