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Pretty much since Chandler (and even before), the class divide has been a part of the PI novel. Our detective is often hired by someone wealthier than they are and sent through all the social stratas to uncover the truth. Sam Wiebe takes this element and puts it under the microscope in his latest featuring Vancouver PI Dave Wakeland, Sunset And Jericho.

Wiebe uses the two cases trope to do this. The city's mayor retain's Wakeland and his firm to find her missing spoiled neerdowell brother. To his partners' chagrin, he becomes more involved with a lower paying case for a friend, hunting down the gun stolen from a transit cop who was jumped an assaulted. Both cases veer toward one another, related to some odd graffitti around Vancouver connected to a group of criminals less motivated by greed than punishing the greedy through robbery and kidnapping.

As Wakeland becomes more involved, he is confronted with what he does. While he understands the people he is against are criminal extremremists, the upper class victims he is assisting prove to be committing greater sins with greater effect. He wonders if he actually does good as a PI as he moves into moral territory that becomes murkier and murkier.

The main reason this exploration is so effective is because Wiebe has created such such a human investigator. Even though the tone and style are different, I often think of The Rockford Files to Sam's work, because they share the same approach to character. He gives us moments of dealing with his sister and friends and working the business details with partners. There is a subplot involving the hiring of the prickly Ryan Mertz as the office manager, resulting in a great passage where he calls our hero out on his b.s.

Sunset And Jericho demonstrates the potential for depth in the private eye novel. With little flash, quirkiness, or hipness, he gives us a fully formed, relatable human as a detective who he can use to mine gems of themes and ideas inherent in the genre. I can't wait for Dave Wakeland's next case.

review by Scott Montgomery


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