Having purchased and started reading this 6th outing of the Russell Quant mysteries within seconds of having finished reading the 5th book, it's probably fair to infer that I'm obsessively, compulsively consuming these novels. They're addictive. Think the novel form of the illegal drug called crack, often said to be instantaneously addictive.
Author Anthony Bidulka, a gifted and masterful storyteller, has book-by-book built and developed his central character in a manner that makes the reader alternately love Russell and want to slap him, just like Cher slapping Nicholas Cage in "Moonstruck" before she shouted, "Snap out of it." Bidulka is an ambitious writer, but his reach never exceeds his talent. While he could easily have developed a formula for these stories, he didn't. For example, this book takes the reader to extreme emotional highs and lows, while observing Russell's introspection and self-discovery, along with his damning emotional and relational ineptitude.
Further, Bidulka's cast of recurring characters avoid the cardboard-cut-out syndrome. He writes their own growth and development with nuance and sensitivity, never allowing them to become cliches or after-thoughts. The gorgeous grooms, Anthony and Jared, marry during the most weather-challenged ceremony of the century. We see them experience relational honesty and integrity that makes us truly believe love can concur all, and do so without being saccharine, maudlin, or insincere. Errall makes terrible choices, corrects course before it's too late, and comes out of those gyrations stronger and more human. Ethan and Simon challenge Russell's assumptions about himself and the world, causing him to hide from and face up to his immaturity and his motivations. Mama Kay Quant rises above the realm of kitchen mastery and charming accent to demonstrate real strength, true intelligence, and a fierce love for her children that makes us love her all the more. Bidulka gives us a glimpse into life on that prairie farm even before Russell was born, providing insights into the biological and behavioral components that shaped Russell's past, present, and -- perhaps -- his future.
While writing this, I will admit that I've only just placed down my iPad, upon which I'm already well into the 7th book.