Noir fiction can be a mixed bag in today’s market. Many of the writers seem content to channel Raymond Chandler and roll through a murder-by-numbers plot with the most clichéd characters. Thankfully, a few breathe new life into the mix. Sam Wiebe is one of them. Last year’s The Invisible Dead introduced private investigator Dave Wakeland in the underused but vibrant setting of Vancouver. Coupled with the PI’s journeys into northern Washington State, the book feels fresh and avoids the pseudo-early twentieth century language and tropes.
Yes, Wakeland is an ex-cop (why does that almost always seem to be the case?) but he’s young and not nearly as jaded as most detectives. His ex-lover Sonia Drago is still on the force and finds herself helping Wakeland in his newest case while he gives her a bit of a hand. A college student has gone missing and her professor enlists the PI to find her. Of course, that girl is still alive, just in the bed of another person. When the student winds up dead shortly after, the game is afoot, but with some twists that keep things interesting. Drago needs help from Wakeland in finding out about her new partner, who may be involved in some dark dealings.
As with some of the heavy hitters in the genre, Wiebe’s books separate from the pack by his writing style. Don’t expect the sparse, overly snarky, pun-filled lazy dialogue and descriptions found in much modern noir. He inflects a love of the language that comes across as sincere and natural, mixing the dark and light with wit.
Recommended for noir fans.