Livingsky by Anthony Bidulka introduces Merry Bell. She is the first transgender woman private detective I have encountered in crime fiction. 

Merry grew up in Livingsky, a barely disguised Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She moved to Vancouver where she worked as a private detective. Transitioning to a woman took place in Vancouver. With surgeries completed she has now completed the process of transition.

She is a striking woman at 5’10” before putting on heels.

While the physical transition is done I was struck by all the other changes to which she must adjust. Merry is struggling with all the social changes to being a woman.

Makeup is more than a challenge for Merry. She is left exposed looking in the mirror, unsure how to enhance her appearance. She makes a deal with Brenda Brown from Designs by Brenda to guide her.

Buying clothes is just as difficult as makeup. She started with the assumption that expensive is best. Unable to afford expensive, she looked to bright and tight being second best. As her finances further decline she becomes a Value Village shopper buying comfortable and practical clothing. I was surprised she did not seek out a sales clerk in a good woman’s clothing store. From years of helping Sharon, I have learned that finding a knowledgeable and frank clerk is invaluable. The eyes of a male might also have been useful.

Merry can be impulsive. She has cherished Christian Louboutin boots. From their description she has purchased the Louboutin knee length boots with stiletto heels.

For some years I have commented on Moira Redmond’s blog, Clothes in Books, on the impracticality and even dangers of women’s fashion winter wear when design has outweighed functionality. When I looked up online the Christian Louboutin boots that Merry is wearing in a Saskatchewan winter I was appalled. She is risking her life donning those boots in our harsh weather. No woman, no matter how determined, could walk an icy Saskatoon ….er Livingsky street in Merry’s spike heeled boots. She had another Louboutin option (a photo to the
right). The clunkier heels of these boots are less beautiful, but would give her a chance at survival. I have written to Anthony setting out my concern for Merry wearing the high risk Louboutin stiletto boots. (From online ads I note Merry did get a bargain paying under $2,000 for her boots.)

Merry could be Russell Quant’s city cousin. (Anthony wrote an earlier series of books with Russell, a gay Saskatchewan man, as his sleuth.) I was glad to see the wit that infused the Quant series has returned. Merry has a deft sense of humour though her landlord, Gerald Drover, has more wit.

Merry is a vulnerable woman feeling her way into her new life. I felt her uncertainty, her desire to be a good woman. How to be what she wants to be as she nears 30.

Anthony seeks out the under-represented of society in his books. In his email inviting me to get an ARC he said “again I teeter on the edge of something different but, I hope, important”. I say he succeeded. Merry lives in a personal world of which I have little knowledge. Beyond reading a good story I learned about a positive transgender life. Anthony should feel proud of his Merry.