Book review: Amuse Bouche by Anthony Bidulka

Amuse Bouche
by Anthony Bidulka
Insomniac Press, 2003
Russell Quant #1

As its title implies, Amuse Bouche begins in an enticingly charming style with PI Russell Quant, whose office is in what was called the Professional Womyn’s Center (now renamed PWC) in Saskatoon, Canada, musing on his lack of clients. When he does score some work, Russell’s cases are usually at the level of finding missing cats or casserole dishes. Hence he jumps at the chance to solve a mystery for rich businessman Harold Chavall. Discretion is Russell’s watchword, as it turns out that the mystery concerns Harold’s bridegroom Tom, who stood up Harold at the altar, so to speak. Although not entirely in the closet, Harold would prefer a quiet but efficient investigation as to Tom’s whereabouts, rather than involving the police.

The book starts very well, in brisk style and replete with neat observations about the Saskatoon and Saskatchewan scene, both in terms of its people and its environment. Russell is a pleasantly engaging narrator who immediately has the reader on his side. Unfortunately, however, the plot is far too protracted – Russell follows Tom’s trail to France but it takes him 200 pages to discover the basic facts of the disappearance which have been evident to the reader pretty much from the outset.

The second part of the book is stronger than the first, in which the action shifts from France back to Saskatoon, when Russell tries to interest his police contact in a reciprocal information-sharing partnership, as well as digging into the backgrounds of Harold’s and Tom’s circle of friends and business associates. Although there is much to enjoy about the novel, at 400 pages it is too long for the story it tells. Nevertheless, I loved all the local atmosphere and details of Russell’s friends and neighbours, not least the Ukrainian aspects, and look forward to meeting them again.

I bought my copy of this book. I thank Bill of Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan for bringing this author to my attention. His review of Amuse Bouche is here, and his other reviews and posts about the author’s books are here.

Other reviews of Amuse Bouche: Quill and Quire, Buried in Print (which makes a good point about the lack of sufficient editing) and Reviewing the Evidence.