Rare Birds

by Edward Riche,
272 pages,
ISBN: 0385256353

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Rare Birds (Doubleday Canada, 288 pages, $19.95 trade paper), by Edward Riche is, like Home Movies, a lightweight but entertaining book. Dave Purcell used to work for the Newfoundland fisheries department, but now is proud owner of and chef extraordinaire at The Auk, a fine dining establishment just outside St. John's. Unfortunately, life is not going well for him. His wife, a successful economist, resides in Washington, D.C., where she heads a think-tank and appears frequently on TV; their marriage is failing. The restaurant, because of tough economic times and because it is so out-of-the-way, is also doing poorly-so poorly, in fact, that Dave is drinking his way through his finest wines so the bankers won't get them when they foreclose.

All is not lost yet, since Dave's closest neighbour, the inimitable Phonse, has decided to come to the rescue with what he considers an ingenious, foolproof idea: why not create a rare bird sighting and have birders flock into the area, thereby filling the restaurant? After all, even birders have to eat, don't they? And so the scheme begins. An anonymous call is made to the CBC and, sure enough, just as Phonse had predicted, the birders migrate to the region in droves hoping to catch a glimpse of Tasker's Sulphureous, a duck thought to be extinct.

It's too bad Phonse ends up becoming a caricature as the book progresses. It's as if Riche didn't know when to stop, kept piling on the antics, got carried away with Phonse's own exuberance. The result of this is an ending one might expect in a James Bond movie-actually, a parody of one.

Nonetheless, the book is fun-good for the cottage on a rainy day.


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