Quill and Quire


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Book Reviews

Working on Sunday

by Edward O. Phillips

December is never Geoffry Chadwick’s favourite time: “Anyone past puberty who enjoys Christmas,” he maintains, “is not dealing with a full deck.” This season is made extra grim by the recent death of his partner, Patrick. Added to that is a rash of sinister messages from an anonymous caller out of his past.

As in the previous titles in Phillips’s Geoffry Chadwick Sunday series, a mystery plot merely provides the excuse for witty divertissement. Plot B, the threat to Geoffry’s life, isn’t nearly as compelling as Plot A, the nature of the relationship Geoffry and the new person he’s met are going to consummate. As things unfold, Phillips draws on a fund of well-turned aphorisms and observations, on fitness (“when I want to feel better I drink Scotch”), Westmount marriages (“Pulp and Paper said ‘I do’ to Banks and Railways”), and haberdashery (“there are no baseball caps in heaven”). Old anglophone Montreal is evoked with loving attention, down to the walnut elevator panelling and the forelock-tugging doormen. Deliciously bitchy about everything from aging heterosexuals to Geoffry’s obnoxious sister, Phillips also engages in harder issues – the decline of an aged parent, the loss of a companion, the difficulties of finding a congenial relationship in late middle age. Shockingly, for someone of Geoffry’s sexual orientation, the most appealing person he’s met in a long time happens to be a widow of his own age. The passions of youth have given way to mature mutual appreciation of moderation, sensible shoes, and a good night’s sleep.

After the nasty fatal skirmish demanded by the genre, the characters come together in the kind of rapprochement Christmas is supposed to bring but so seldom does. Thus it makes fine holiday fare while transcending seasonal appeal. The ideal reader, however, is probably well over 40 years old.