Livingsky by Anthony Bidulka – Book Review

Livingsky by Anthony Bidulka – Book Review

Livingsky by Anthony Bidulka


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Going home is not always the best answer. Forced to leave behind her big city dreams, Merry Bell returns to Livingsky Saskatchewan to start over. Living with plenty of secrets, but no money, friends, or place to live during a prairie winter-all while trying to start her own PI business-proves to be more challenging than she imagined. With a first case that quickly turns more dangerous than it first appeared, Merry must deal with a dodgy client, the murder of the surgeon who performed her gender affirming surgery, and more than one mysterious stranger.

For the first time since his award-winning Russell Quant novels, Bidulka begins a new mystery series, continuing in his tradition of presenting under-represented characters and settings that immediately feel familiar and beloved, while tugging at heart strings and tickling your funny bone. Livingsky easily matches the beauty and tenderness of Going to Beautiful while delivering a page-turning mystery.

Review by Julie

‘Livingsky’ is the latest work from the pen of Canadian-based author, Anthony Bidulka. Our main protagonist is Merry Bell who leaves Vancouver for her home town of Livingsky after gender-affirming surgery. Her ex-employer agrees she can use his business name to open what would appear to be a satellite branch of his detective agency. In fact, Merry is working independently and struggling for clients. This means when her dodgy would-be landlord offers her a commission, she cannot afford to turn it down. It doesn’t take long for Merry to find herself in deep water as she tries to get to the bottom of an arson attack. She then finds out she is a person of interest after her surgeon is found murdered in Vancouver.

Merry has an engaging personality who, after some difficulties long the way, seems to have coped well both physically and emotionally with her surgery. She still struggles a bit with hair and makeup so is arguably experimenting ten years later than most girls to find her style. As time goes by, we find out more about Merry’s background. I suspect most readers will be happy for her when a hint of romance appears on the horizon.

The layers of the story are gradually peeled back as Merry makes progress with her investigation, whilst meeting some interesting and diverse characters along the way. The story is told in the third person and the past tense. There are several literary techniques on show here and more than a smattering of humour. I enjoyed the descriptions of the area and think we can all identify with ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ cold.

The author leads his readers smoothly through each stage of Merry’s investigation and also her personal struggles with finance and affordable accommodation so whilst it isn’t an action-packed adventure, it definitely held my attention.

The dual threads running through the story are both brought to satisfying conclusions and without doubt, there is scope for another mystery for Merry to solve. With no excessive violence nor unnecessary graphic padding, the plot has been well-crafted and skilfully delivered. ‘Livingsky’ will appeal to fans of this genre and I award five stars.

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Anthony Bidulka

Anthony Bidulka

Bidulka’s books have been nominated for Lambda Literary Awards, Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence, Saskatchewan Book Awards, and a ReLit award. Flight of Aquavit was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Men’s Mystery, making Bidulka the first Canadian to win in that category.

Anthony Bidulka writes traditional genre novels in an untraditional way, developing a body of work featuring underrepresented settings and characters. His alma mater inducted Anthony into the College of Education Wall of Honour and presented him the College of Arts and Science Alumni of Influence Award. He has also received the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Nation Builders Award and was named Saskatoon Citizen of the Year. For his promotion of Saskatchewan through his books, co-founding Camp fYrefly Saskatchewan (a leadership retreat for gender and sexually diverse and allied youth), and volunteer and philanthropic efforts in the community, Anthony was recently honoured by the selection of a two-part park in Saskatoon to be named Bidulka Park and Bidulka Park North.

When he isn’t writing or busy volunteering on boards, Bidulka loves to travel the world, collect art, walk his dogs, obsess over decorating Christmas trees (it’s a thing) and throw a good party.

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