About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Set Free by Anthony Bidulka

Set Free by Anthony Bidulka – Anthony’s first standalone has a setting distant from the Saskatchewan based mysteries of his earlier two series featuring Russell Quant and Adam Saint.
Set Free mainly takes place in Boston though the locale is not immediately clear at the start of the book. Anthony unfolds action and then adds back story. The reader gradually discovers the characters and their histories.

The book is more complex in structure than Anthony’s previous books. It opens with an excerpt from a book written by Jaspar Willis, his protagonist. That book, also called Set Free, and therefore Anthony’s book Set Free have a great opening line:

      I would have packed less if I knew I was going to die.

The Jaspar Set Free non-fiction is the Bidulka fictional Set Free.

Jaspar is kidnapped in Marrakech, Morocco on his way from the airport to his hotel. He is held in a dismal room. While there he is beaten and photographed as his kidnappers pursue an unknown goal.
Why Jaspar is in Morocco subsequently unfolds.

Jaspar and his wife, Jenn, unexpectedly had a daughter, Mikki. In a reversal of traditional gender duties Jaspar stays home and Jenn is the primary earner. While at home Jaspar pursues a relatively undistinguished writing career. Jenn is working hard as a lawyer.

Their lives are upended when Jaspar writes a book that becomes a best seller. Anthony takes the opportunity to become the reviewer of his character's book:

      In the Middle was a (mostly) fictionalized account of an everyday
      guy who takes a year-long leave of absence from regular life to
      travel the world. An earlier reviewer described the book as
      "gut-wrenching, side-splitting, surprisingly heartfelt, a
      must-read for anyone wading through the mess of midlife.
     When the New York Times called it "the Eat, Pray Love for middle
      aged men and the women trying to love them," sales exploded.

With success life becomes hectic. Jaspar rides the publicity wave now demanded of the famed in America. Some fortune accompanies the fame but Jaspar needs more than one best seller for a secure financial life.

Tragedy strikes the family living the American dream. To say more may spoil the book for some readers but I cannot review it without discussing those events. Venture no further if you prefer to limit your knowledge of the book.

Mikki is abducted. Jaspar and Jenn are left barely functioning. The intense strain is exacerbated by whether Jaspar is at fault. Their friend, Katie Edwards, a local T.V. reporter helps them cope with the media onslaught.

While the story of Mikki's kidnapping is being revealed Jaspar is moved from captivity in the city to the country. With little food his body gradually deteriorates. His mind becomes pre-occupied with Mikki. In the forms of a child and as a teenager she joins him at night. While surreal the story is powerful in imagining how body and mind react to prolonged deprivation.

As I was feeling uncomfortable that the story was drifting into the too incredible that diminished my enjoyment of Anthony’s previous book, The Women of Skawa Island,  Anthony brings the plot together in a truly unexpected and credible way.

I have not read a plot where the lead character is both the parent of a kidnapped child and a kidnap victim himself. Anthony delves into the mind of Jaspar in both scenarios. The title of the book becomes perfect.

Beyond those issues Anthony explores a writer’s responsibility to the facts and a journalist’s ethics in the midst of a huge story.

Anthony's real life love of travel is reflected in the book by setting a significant part of the story in Morocco. All of his books have had his lead character travel to a fascinating distant land as part of the plot.

Anthony does well in building tension and keeping the reader off-balance. Set Free is a rare intelligent thriller unlike most American thrillers in that there is not a steady accumulation of bodies. A reader can enjoy the book as a thriller yet be left thinking about freedom. Anthony has written a fine book. (And take a look at his website to see how the book was inspired by a trip made to celebrate his 50th birthday.)
** Bidulka, Anthony – Russell Quant series and Adam Saint series and standalone:

Russell Quant books - (2004) - Amuse Bouche (Most
Interesting of 2004 – fiction and non-fiction); (2005) - Flight of Aquavit (2nd Best fiction in 2005); (2005) - Tapas on the Ramblas; (2006) - Stain of the Berry; (2008) - Sundowner Ubuntu; (2009) - Aloha, Candy Hearts; (2010) - Date with a Sheesha; (2012) - Dos Equis; Paperback or Hardcover

Adam Saint books - (2013) - When the Saints Go Marching In


  1. It sounds as though this book really packs a punch, Bill. I really do like Anthony Bidulka's writing, and this one sounds like a good 'un. Stories that include abduction can sometimes get too lurid, but this one doesn't sound that way. I'll have to look into this one.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I liked Anthony's plotting in this book. I do miss the wit of Russell Quant.

  3. I hope you enjoy it Margot. I know what you mean about abduction stories. They tend not to be my favourite. Hopefully I've successfully given this a different slant that focuses more on the internal and the nature of truth and freedom rather than than the gruesome.

    1. Anthony: Thanks for dropping by the blog. I look forward to hearing about your next book.

  4. That's a complicated setup - and it certainly sounds interesting. I think I would enjoy it.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. It is not too clever. I think you would find it a good book.