Invisible Dead, by Sam Wiebe (2017)

Mystery
Adult
Invisible Dead, by Sam WiebeVancouver is known for its sky-high real estate, spectacular setting, multicultural population and a generally laid-back and accepting attitude. Also pretty good soccer team, a football team that would be better if they hadn’t traded Andrew Harris, and a hockey team that is quite likely, to be kind, in a rebuilding year. It also has a significant drug problem, homeless numbers that are climbing every year, and a shameful history of an uncaring attitude toward missing and murdered prostitutes who are often Indigenous women. So it’s a real story that fuels the plot of this mystery that is the first in a new series starring the flawed but deeply principled private investigator Dave Wakeland. He is young, not yet 30, but is already a former cop with a high profile for solving crimes. Wealthy Vancouverite Gail Murphy hires him to find out what happened to her adopted daughter, Chelsea Loam, who disappeared 11 years ago. The trail is cold but Wakeland unearths some new clues that suggest Chelsea, a drug addict and prostitute who went by the name Charity, had associated with a decidedly unsavoury crowd. Things quickly go dark as the thugs make it clear they want Wakeland to end his investigation. Be warned, the violence is intense and realistic. But Wiebe has created a winning character in Wakeland – he’s flawed for sure, as we all are, but he’s also appealing, self-deprecating, principled, and witty. The plot is well developed, though the resolution was a bit disappointing for me. The setting is spot on – Wiebe knows Vancouver and the Lower Mainland well. Altogether, he has created a gripping “noir” mystery that draws the reader in and shines a harsh light on Vancouver, revealing both its bright and dark sides. I spotted a couple of minor errors (there’s no “pre-med” at UBC, and cruise ships leave in late afternoon, not midday), but the important stuff works well. This is a candidate for the City of Vancouver book award; it’s pretty gritty and occasionally downright unflattering to the city, so I’ll be surprised if it wins.
More reviews and discussion of this novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27283973
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