Winner of the Unhanged Arthur Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel, 2012
Twenty-nine-year-old Michael Drayton runs a private investigation agency in Vancouver that specializes in missing persons — only, as Mike has discovered, some missing people stay with you. Still haunted by the unsolved disappearance of a young girl, Mike is hired to find the vanished son of a local junk merchant. However, he quickly discovers that the case has been damaged by a crooked private eye and dismissed by a disinterested justice system. Worse, the only viable lead involves a drug-addicted car thief with gang connections.
As the stakes rise, Mike attempts to balance his search for the junk merchant's son with a more profitable case involving a necrophile and a funeral home, while simultaneously struggling to keep a disreputable psychic from bilking the mother of a missing girl.
5 from 5 and the best book of the month so far. More Canadian crime fiction, another debut novel and a PI tale to boot; which hand on heart are my favourite type of sleuth within the genre.
Wiebe introduces us to Michael Drayton, an ex-cop running his own investigative agency. Drayton has a couple of office assistant-cum-employees-cum helpers-friends – Ben Loeb and Katherine Hough. There’s an interesting dynamic between the three of them. Loeb is a game designer and a constant reminder to Drayton, not that he needs one of an on-going, unsolved, going-nowhere missing child case. The child in question is Loeb’s sister and while the case file sits permanently on Drayton’s desk and Michael himself works it, you sense Loeb has given up. Hough is the part-time employee, someone more committed to her college education and not totally sure if working with Drayton is wise.
Drayton himself is interesting. He lives and cares for his elderly grandmother and frets over his cancer-ridden pet dog, not quite able to do the right thing by them both and let her go. In the course of the book we cross paths with his ex-fiancee, Mira Das and her partner, Gavin Fisk. Das and Fisk are both cops who become involved in Drayton’s missing child case. The fact that Das and Fisk cheated on Drayton together adds another layer of intrigue to the relationships both personal and professional during the course of the investigation.
As well as the Loeb – unsolved, Drayton has two cases on the go through the course of this book. Another missing child case which has stalled and a disturbing sex case involving someone interfering and defiling some corpses at a funeral home. Following Drayton as he pursues both cases, juggling his time and his limited resources while managing his home situation is fantastic. The stop-start-stall nature of the cases and the gradual uncovering of facts, witnesses, leads, plans and ultimately action gradually brings the plot to a boil.
Wiebe nails it. Plot, pace, character, setting, action and resolution with moments of genuine tension and dread as the climax approached. Causing this reader to scratch head and ponder………how did he do that?
I’m hopeful this is the start of a series as opposed to a one-shot deal, but I don’t know.
Probably September’s book of the month.
Sam Wiebe can be found here on his website and @sam_wiebe on Twitter. The book was recently published early September by Dundurn Press who can be found here.
My thanks to Caitlyn at Dundurn for allowing me to get this one via Net Galley.