Book Review : Sam Wiebe - Invisible Dead (2016)
Pre-Order INVISIBLE DEAD here (available on June 14)
There are no real private detectives anymore. I'm sure the job still exists somehow, but it's not like it once was. The market is now dominated by security firms and bounty hunters. That is precisely why detective novels will live forever: fictional private eyes have become idealized cops, bound only by their sense of justice. They allow moral exploration like no other genres do. Award-Winning Canadian author Sam Wiebe understands this and his latest novel Invisible Dead is by far his most polished and nuanced work yet. The detective novel is alive and well and it might've just found its new generation flagship author.
The novel begins when private investigator Dave Wakeland receives an anonymous lead on a cold case: ask: a locally famous incarcerated serial killer might know something about the disappearance of Chelsea Loam. The lead doesn't hand Dave any clear answer, but it sure point in a clear direction. Nothing good stands between Dave and Chelsea Loam: bad memories, people running from their respective paths, dangerous bikers. The mystery is as tangled and off-putting as it is dangerous, but it's just daring the obsessive Dave Wakeland to solve it.
Invisible Dead is my second Sam Wiebe novel and it's noticeably richer and more polished than his debut effort Last of the Independents. The latter isn't a bad novel at all, but it doesn't have the style and the sophistication of Invisible Dead. Sam Wiebe created a rich and nuanced atmosphere without ever tipping into over-the-top grittiness or falling back on the phone book of clichés available to hardboiled fiction authors. The attention to detail and the inherent cohesiveness of the setting reminded me of True Detective. The influence of iconic figures of the detective novel such a Dashiell Hammett and Ross MacDonald is also palpable.
Perhaps the factor that most contributed to creating Invisible Dead's intoxicating atmosphere though is Sam Wiebe's understated realism. Dave Wakeland is not a reckless white knight or a miserable nihilist, he is very much human and Wiebe puts him in positions where self-preservation become a priority. Wakeland feels like a normal, flawed and thoroughly stubborn young man who walks into a hornet's nest of a situation. It feels real and because it is the tale of a normal man against a well-oiled underworld machine. It's easy to put yourself in Dave Wakeland's shoes.
Invisible Dead is a thoroughly well-crafted traditional detective novel. It doesn't break any literary boundaries, but Sam Wiebe never takes easy moral decisions and conveys the tainted and draining nature of missing people investigations. Invisible Dead, like its predecessor Last of the Independents never chases the big emotional moment and instead focuses on narrative accuracy and that looming sense of danger it does so well. Some novels are meant to challenge your expectations and other to fulfill them. Invisible Dead is of the latter sort and succeeds in every possible way.