One of the nicest things about discovering a new-to-you fictional sleuth is when that sleuth’s surname fits in beautifully with an alphabet meme. This week, the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme is scheduled for a stop at Q-ville. Thanks to our tour guide Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise for the thrills and chills thus far. For this year’s meme I had no worries about which sleuth I would profile during our visit to Q-ville. My contribution, whom I “met” early this year, is Anthony Bidulka’s Russell Quant. Of course, there are a lot of things about Quant that make him an appealing character; I’ll get to those in a moment. But let me start by saying that if you’re reading this Mr. Bidulka, thanks for giving your character a surname that begins with Q.
So who is Russell Quant? He’s a former member of the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) who as we learn in Amuse Bouche, decided that
“…life in uniform was not part of my long-term goals..”
and became a private investigator. And one of the appealing things about Quant’s character is that he doesn’t have the stereotypical PI view of the police as The Enemy. He doesn’t constantly have to evade police investigations in order to solve cases. In fact he’s developed a working rapport with a former cop friend Darren Kirsch who’s now in the Criminal Investigation Division. The two co-operate and in their own ways, they share information. Each has realised that he needs the other.
Quant isn’t married, although he has had a couple of serious relationships. Although he’s single Quant is refreshingly free of the “self-destructive loner PI syndrome.” He has some solid and important relationships in his life, including his friendship with his enigmatic neighbour Sereena Orion Smith and his friendships with the other professionals who work in the building where he has his office. He also has a close friendship with his mentor Anthony Gatt, a very successful men’s clothing entrepreneur, and with Gatt’s partner Jared Lowe, a former model. And then there’s Quant’s Ukrainian mother, with whom he re-builds his relationship as the series goes on. You could really say that these people form Quant’s family and he does care about them; that caring and loyal side of Quant’s personality is very appealing.
Another appealing aspect of Quant’s character is that he can think quickly and he’d rather use his wits than his fists. For example in Flight of Aquavit he takes the case of businessman Daniel Guest, who is being blackmailed. Guest wants Quant to find and stop the blackmailer but someone seems to be equally determined that Quant won’t find out the truth. In the course of the novel Quant talks his way into getting some privileged theatre information, out-maneouvers a driver who’s following him and out-thinks a hostage-taker. And all of this without using the “punch first and ask questions later” approach.
Like most PI’s Quant solves cases by asking questions and tracking information down. He uses logical deductions and puts pieces of cases together. He is also wrong sometimes and that makes him appealing too. He’s a believable combination of a smart PI who is also a fallible human being. When he’s wrong he admits it and starts over. That doesn’t mean he likes it, though.
Quant’s also got a very appealing sense of humour. For instance in Aloha, Candy Hearts, Quant is on his way home from Hawaii to Saskatchewan when he falls into conversation with a man he thinks looks just like Mr. Magoo. Soon afterwards the man, whose real name is Walter Angel, slips what looks like a treasure map into Quant’s luggage. Angel is then murdered in a parking lot. When Quant gets that piece of paper he takes an interest in the map even though it’s not really a case he’s been hired to solve. The map turns out to be a little like a scavenger hunt and ends up being related to a dark secret in Saskatchewan’s past and a present-day case of blackmail. At one point in the novel Quant and Darren Kirsch are having an argument.
“‘You know,’ I said with mock sincerity, ‘I really love it how our relationship has progressed over the years and blossomed into something I’ve really come to cherish. I hope you feel the same.’
Darren gave me his snarly-Elvis- lip-curl.
I mimicked it back.
Hot dog halfway between lap and mouth, he stared at me for a count of two. His jaw was tight. His lips tighter. And then, he couldn’t help himself. His face broke. He grinned…Every so often, the broomstick wedged in his a** at birth dislodged just enough to reveal a real person with a decent sense of humour. Well, that and the fact that as a private dick it helped to have a contact in the local police department. And none of the other cops returned my calls.”
Quant and Kirsch do help each other in this case and Quant discovers the tie between past and present. He also has to make a wrenching choice in his personal life.
Quant’s gay and not particularly self-conscious about it. That forthrightness is a very refreshing aspect of his character. He’s matter-of-fact about his personal life and the result is that he’s a PI who happens to be gay. It’s just another part of who he is, much like his Ukrainian background and his rural Saskatchewan upbringing.
Oh, and one final thing to mention about Russell Quant: his wonderpants. They’re a sort of running joke throughout the series. As Quant himself tells us in Stain of the Berry,
“My wonderpants. Everyone has a pair. They’re black, never wrinkle, I’ve owned them forever yet they’re always in style, and, most importantly, I’ve been told they make my a** look great. The whole point of wonderpants is that they always look good and they always fit – even if you did eat a bag of Doritos the night before.”
I know what he means. Wonderpants are an important part of a person’s wardrobe.
Russell Quant is smart and quick-thinking but fallible, so he’s human. He’s loyal and has a terrific sense of humour. He solves cases with brains not brawn and he’s got an interesting personality. He evolves too as the series goes on. He becomes more mature so we get to see the kind of person he’s turning out to be as life events happen to him. He’s also a determined investigator who doesn’t give up. Oh, and he has wonderpants. What’s not to like?