BWW Reviews: Anthony Bidulka's A FLIGHT OF AQUAVIT
A FLIGHT OF AQUAVIT is the second of the Russell Quant mysteries by Anthony Bidulka. Quant, first introduced to us in AMUSE BOUCHE, is the Philip Marlowe of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, or would be if he were just a touch more noir.
Why isn't he more noir? It's hard to be dark when you're a gay man with a formerly jet-set neighbor, an adorable dog named Barbra, and it's nearly Christmas. It's hard, even when unknown assailants are chasing you down highways, dumping you in snowdrifts in the deep country, or trying to knock you out in Manhattan. It's hard, even when your closeted accountant of a client is absolutely fixated on the idea that he's being blackmailed in Saskatoon by a former one-night stand who's moved to New York to find himself as an actor.
In fact, the only truly gray spot on Quant's horizon is the hair of his sainted Ukrainian mother, who's descended upon him for the Christmas season and shows no signs of not cooking for him every fatty, fried Ukrainian treat that he's given up eating for years. How can you tail suspects, stake out parking lots, rush to Manhattan looking for suspects, and still let your mother know when you'll be home for dinner? It's a conundrum.
A FLIGHT OF AQUAVIT brings back all of Quant's women, particularly spotlighting his fascinating neighbor, Sereena, who accompanies him to New York and shows a previously unknown side of herself in the process. His female lawyer and psychologist friends and co-workers are back, with a side plot about cancer issues, and his mother is no longer a myth, but reality. Bidulka is one of the best authors writing women secondary characters these days - his depictions are neither femmes fatales or harridans; they're human beings as complex and as emotionally layered as his men. Only one female character here feels a bit one-dimensional - his closeted client's wife, who is a one-book character. Her own feelings and motives seem a bit thin as the story progresses, but not so thin that they ever tear.