Created by Anthony Bidulka
Going home is never easy. But years of gender-affirming surgery in Vancouver finds twenty-something MERRY BELL running back to Saskatoon—or at least Livingsky, Saskatchewan, a thinly disguised version of it. Or is it Regina? Or a combination of the two? It’s hard to tell—Bidulka seems to be mixing and matching Saskatchewan cities, and “Land of the Living Skies” is the motto on Saskatchewan license plates.
Already an experienced private investigator (she was one of Sharpe Investigations’s top operatives in Vancouver), Merry decides to start up her own agency in Livingsky, where the cost of living is decidedly lower. Plus, there’s that little business of being one of the prime suspects in the murder of her doctor, Elliott Vanstone, back in British Columbia. Seems like a good time to split…
But “going home is not as simple as it sounds.” Livingsky may be her hometown, but that was a long time ago. She’s estranged from her family, and has few friends left. Understandable, if not exactly commendable, I guess— she left Livingsky as a man.
Fans of the author’s Russell Quant series may miss that globetrotting bon vivant’s chatty first-person voiceover, but Merry proves to be an affable enough, if darker, character, plagued at times by self-doubt and loneliness.
“Imagine, if you can, waking up one day to find that the sexual organs you’d always hoped for, the ones you should have been born with, are suddenly right where they were always supposed to be. It’s like having a brand new toy you have no idea how to play with, and there’s no one around to show you…”
Oh, and winter’s coming on, clients aren’t exactly breaking down her door, and she’s almost broke (gender-affirmation doesn’t come cheap). When we first meet her, in her promising debut, 2023’s Livingsky, she’s living out of her miniscule office.
A struggling young trans P.I. in a Canadian Prairie town is a brave peg to hang a series on, but Bidulka seems more than capable, treating Merry and her problems with sensitivity, wit and humour. It’ll be interesting to see where he takes her.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In 1999 Anthony Bidulka, BA, BEd, BComm, CA and EIEIO left a decade long career as a Chartered Accountant to pursue writing. Looks like he caught it. The long-running Russell Quant series has received generally excellent reviews and the second novel in the series, Flight of Aquavit (2004) was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Men’s Mystery, making Bidulka the first Canadian to win that award. More recently Anthony has also written a couple of thrillers featuring Canadian Disaster Recovery Agent Adam Saint, who investigates catastrophes around the world, as well as a few standalones, Set Free, and Going to Beautiful, as well as a new series featuring private investigator Merry Bell. For his co-founding of Camp fYrefly Saskatchewan, a leadership retreat for gender and sexually diverse and allied youth, and his volunteer and philanthropic work in the community, two parks in Saskatoon have been named in his honour, and he has received the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Nation Builders Award and was named Saskatoon Citizen of the Year. One of Bidulka’s favourite sayings is “Life is short, but it can be wide.”
- Will Merry run into Russell Quant? It somehow seems likely.
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