1386 Vancouver’s Ian Rankin
Hell and Gone: A Wakeland Novel
by Sam Wiebe
Madeira Park: Harbour Publishing, 2021
$24.95 / 9781550179637
Reviewed by Alma Lee
Dave Wakeland and his partner Jeff Chen run a private investigation agency out of Chinatown in the heart of Vancouver. They are in the midst of expanding, and while Jeff is working at their new office, Dave is still doing business out of the original small office.
One morning at the old office Dave is startled by a commotion outside — guns firing and general chaos. He looks out the window and witnesses masked gunmen leaving havoc and fear on the street. The turmoil galvanizes Dave into action as he escapes his office out the window, unseen by the shooters who have taken off.
A victim lies on the sidewalk seriously injured. Dave stays with her — someone has already called 911 — till the ambulance and police arrive. Traumatized by the event, he goes home and tells his girlfriend, Sonia, a police officer, all about what he has witnessed. The more he thinks about it the more complicated it all seems and he can’t get it out of his mind.
Given this is Dave Wakeland, Private Investigator, he just can’t let it go. He begins to investigate and finds himself in the midst of a complex scenario that includes the police, the Exiles motorcycle gang, a high ranking police officer, and international criminal elements – a combination that is all a bit too much him. Enlisting the help of Sonia and his partner Jeff, Dave finds that not only are the police interested in finding the shooters – many others are too.
The shooters themselves start turning up dead, bringing Dave more and more into a dangerous situation rife with secrets and lies, manipulations, and double-crosses. But being Dave Wakeland, he just can’t let it go even though both Jeff and Sonia urge him to give it up. Despite themselves, they also get dragged in as the plot thickens and even more dangerous events crop up. Practically every page reveals new and confusing situations as Dave and his team struggle to bring clarity back to the initial crime — the shootings.
Hell and Gone is an exposure of the underbelly of Vancouver and of the criminal elements that plague the city, of which many regular citizens are unaware. Sam Wiebe’s Dave Wakeland is so used to reckoning with criminal Vancouver that new situations don’t surprise him. Instead, they make him acutely aware of the dangers of “not paying attention.”
Hell and Gone is a page-turner. The writing is tight and involving. Sam Wiebe has a great grasp of Vancouver and its Chinatown, of the police, biker gangs, and especially the intrigues and back room goings-on of all these players. If I have a small negative thing to say, it’s that there are almost too many characters in this story. I found it hard to keep up sometimes. But this is a minor quibble. Given Sam Wiebe’s ability and knowledge of his hometown, he could become Vancouver’s Ian Rankin with future instalments of his gripping opening trio of Dave Wakeland novels: Invisible Dead (2016), Cut You Down (2018), and now the rivetting Hell and Gone.
Alma Lee was the founder and first Artistic Director of the Vancouver Writers Festival. She is, needless to say, an avid reader whose “guilty pleasure” is reading crime fiction. She was also the founding Executive Director of The Writers’ Union of Canada and of The Writers’ Trust. She also worked as an associate producer in charge of script development at Universal Studios when they had a production office in Toronto. She currently lives in Vancouver and, although no longer at the Vancouver Writers Festival, she continues to read – and to be involved with the literary community. Editor’s note: Alma Lee has also reviewed books by William Deverell and C.C. Humphreys for The British Columbia Review.
The British Columbia Review
Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie
Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line journal service for in-depth coverage of BC books and writers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.
“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster