Sam Wiebe. Last of the Independents. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2014.
The further I read, the more I was impressed. Here's a refreshing voice in the line of hard-boiled investigators with soft hearts. Someone deemed this debut as "Vancouver noir." Not a debut for writer Wiebe, but a new genre for him, introducing Michael Drayton, P.I. The detective is handling two missing persons cases among more mundane, boring matters. He works on the shoestring beloved by creators of such characters, his makeshift office peopled with slightly resentful student Katherine and games whiz Ben. Ben's young sister Cynthia is one of the missing.
More recently, Django James is a boy who disappeared together with his father's car. It's soon apparent that Drayton cares more for his clients than he wants to show. And his temper flares high in the presence of criminal scumbags. His hunt for the boy sometimes involves his nemesis, police constable Gavin Fisk. The two men have history regarding one attractive woman ― that's not the only side facet to the story as Drayton meets (and falls for) someone new. Wiebe has a natural, engaging style with easy humour. This reader hopes Drayton will surface again and again.
One-liner ― on being subjected to offensively bad music:
"Put a fucking bullet in me," said Fisk. (260)
Gavin Fisk had said he'd be down in a minute. Seventeen minutes later he strolled out of the elevator, a hockey bag slung over his shoulder. A tall, muscular white man with a stubble-dotted head, wearing grey sweats and a shirt that said POLICE: THE WORLD'S LARGEST STREET GANG.
He grinned and grabbed my hand in an alpha-male handshake. I upped the torque of my own grip. Rule one for dealing with people like Gavin Fisk: never show weakness and never back down. Otherwise you'll spend every morning handing over your lunch money. (40)
Lisa was about my age, pear shaped, with a face buried under bronzer and red lipstick.
"You get the hell out of here," she said to me. "He's not talking to you. Ever. Understand?"
"He said you were the one who dealt with Szabo."
"You're a police officer?"
"Private detective working for ―"
"I don't care," she said. "Get out or I call the real police."
I nodded and walked to the door to wait for her to buzz me out. Propping the door open, I turned back to hurl some scathing putdown at them. I started to point out that between the two of them they only had one pair of eyebrows, but it was too much of a mouthful. I drove home alternating between coming up with better insults and telling myself I was the bigger man for holding my tongue. (72)
Drayton's grandmother and Thanksgiving:
Family-wise I think of myself as alone except for her, though she has a sister with three children and six sullen, Nintendo-addicted grandchildren. I view them as acquaintances, conventioneers who I put out for and put up with for one afternoon every year, plying them with mashed potatoes and gewurtztraminer and sending them on their way so that the other 364.25 days can be free of relatives. For their part, I'm sure they feel equally obligated to descend from their comfortable homes once a year to check in on the Widow Kessler and her peculiar grandson. What does he do again? Some kind of security guard or something. Oh, right. There any money in that? (132-133)
Jussi Adler-Olsen. The Marco Effect. New York: Dutton/Penguin, 2014.
Copenhagen's police department Q is going full tilt in a more complicated story than ever. An unsolved disappearance of four years ago reverberates into current criminal activities and the hunt for Marco, a missing boy who can expose them all. Marco has one miraculous escape after another. Detective Carl Mørck is in danger of being eclipsed by his eager assistants Assad and Rose while his suddenly stalled love life distracts him. He and we learn more tantalizing bits about Assad, whose malapropisms and love of camel metaphors drives Carl mad. A financial boondoggle in Africa, boy soldiers, corrupt government officials, immigrant gangs, and child labour are all part of the byzantine plot, almost veering into disbelief in some scenarios. It's all about the money, what else. Another great winner for Adler-Olsen.
One-liner – It was high time he quelled his emotional hangover and reminded this cheeky shrew whose door had a shiny brass plate on it and whose didn't. (133)
Mørck admits his educational gap:
"Technologically illiterate? Don't know the expression. What the devil does it mean?"
"Someone dysfunctional in matters electronic. A person who's unable to operate devices that have more than one handle or button. Thick as a half-wit when it comes to understanding a manual, switching from a dial telephone to a mobile or from sink to dishwasher. You know the type?"
Assad nodded attentively. No doubt it was he who'd coined the expression in the first place. (132)
A very tight spot:
If they shut the door on him he would suffocate and never be found until the house was again inhabited.
Marco pressed his lips together. And when that time came they would find him because of the smell. His smell.
They would find a dead boy no one knew. Suffocated and decomposed. A boy with no distinguishing marks and no identity papers.
His heart was beating so fast that his breathing could hardly keep up in his upright fetal position and he began to sweat. (173)
Eric Rill. Pinnacle of Deceit. Toronto: Georgetown Publications, 2003.
Like Wiebe, Rill is a Canadian author but with less ease in the crime/thriller genre. Four boys meet and bond in an orphanage which they keep secret, but their young experience was not a fully developed story line. Anthony Marshall becomes the bullying, mega-wealthy owner of the Pinnacle hotel chain; Gerald Pratt becomes his passive right hand man; Ricardo Sanchez becomes a notorious Mexican drug lord; and Harmon Baker becomes president of the USA. Sounding over the top? Authors never seem to run out of corruption-among-the-privileged themes. A lesser theme among the threads is parental neglect, abuse, or absence, and the resulting character effects.
Despite their incredible power and resources, the four lives go off the rails when blackmail arises over more recent events, and the killing begins. Wives, grown children, and employees all scramble to protect themselves or each other. Pinnacle starts out with a rather pedestrian style and too many names to remember. Then the non-stop action picks up ... so much so that I suspect a film script and camera angles have already been figured. Rill carries it off with the right touch and realistic details of the hotel industry and other backgrounds. I didn't like the abrupt ending, though. His next in the genre, The innocent Traitor, may be more polished.
A boss you want to kill:
Dolly arrived with full coffee and tea service on a silver tray.
"He's not staying," Marshall informed her. "I need you to send this fax to our bank down in Nassau." Turning back to Pratt, with a smirk on his face, Marshall said, "You know, your kid is one of the smartest I've seen in the business. How in the hell did he come from your sperm? Ever think that Maryanne was banging someone else while you were away on one of your trips?"
"Anthony, I want to speak to you," Pratt said, his face reddening.
"So, speak," Marshall said, picking up a memo from his in-box.
"I mean alone."
"Not one of your 'I feel sorry for myself' dissertations. I'm too busy for that bullshit," Marshall growled. "If you want to chat, why don't you go see your shrink?" (54-5)
A private party:
The press, twenty-five in all not counting the photographers, had landed on the helicopter pad on the north side of the farm and had been bused over moments before. The president's staff members had arrived in their own helicopter. Everyone was here — except the man they had come to see.
A tiny speck approached from the west, emitting a whirling sound that was getting louder by the second. The guests pushed and shoved, trying to get a better view. The noise became deafening as the speck turned into a recognizable shape. Marine One, the president's helicopter, blasted the people below with hot air as it hovered overhead. Finally, the chopper dropped listlessly to the ground, its rotors gradually changing from one whirling cutter into separate, distinguishable blades. Moments later, the door opened. (108)
"Should we go back to New York?" Caroline asked, pouring herself a shot of Absolut from the bar.
"No. And Caroline, that's it with the booze," Dolan said, taking the glass from Caroline's trembling hand. "You're going to jeopardize both our lives."
"I'll try," Caroline said, tears beginning to well up in her eyes.
"You won't try. You, my friend, are going cold turkey. If not, I'm history," Dolan declared. "This is what they call tough love."
"Shit, Buddy! I can't just give it up. It's not like going on a diet. I'll cut way back. I promise."
"Look, Caroline. I'm sure it's not going to be easy. In fact, it will be a miserable experience. But in a few weeks you'll be a much happier person," Dolan said, reaching out to touch her arm. "I'll help you in any way I can." (194)