(36. - 1108.) Hell and Gone by Sam Wiebe - A jolt of adrenaline rushed through me as I followed Dave Wakeland listening to fireworks and then realizing they were gunshots and then watching from his office window as four masked figures emerge from an office building across the street with a hockey bag and then shoot down commuters at a bus stop. Most of the deceased are Chinese.
As with Wakeland I was confused and in shock. It’s 5:15 on a quiet Vancouver morning. Wanton, even casual killing, is not Canadian. How was this possible?
Wakeland rouses himself to help the survivors and then checks the other building where there are four more bodies in a money counting room. Shaken, confused, on the edge of shock, he reflexively tells the police he did not see anything.
Wakeland does not want to investigate the killings. He wants to be left alone. He is struggling with nightmarish images when he closes his eyes. No one believes he saw nothing and that he is not investigating. He is a tough guy whose speciality is finding people.
The lead police investigator, Superintendent Borden, is convinced Wakefield is withholding information.
His girlfriend, Officer Sonia Drego, is sure he no longer trusts her.
Deputy Chief Constable MacLeish expresses his disbelief personally and tells him to butt out.
Terry Rhodes, leader of the Exiles Motorcyle Club, summons him for a meeting. Rhodes is intimidating:
But I’d also seen what lay behind it. A predatory business sense that sized a person up, decided value and acted without hesitation. All threats neutralized, all desires gratified, all opportunities seized by the throat. I’d once likened meeting with Rhodes to human chess, played on a minefield.
Rhodes, concerned over blowback for something not done by his members, directs Wakefield to find the killers.
His partner, Jeff Chen, has some connections with Roy Long, a Chinese leader with many other connections and the owner of the building in which the shooting occurred.
And then one of the killers tracks him down.
Wakefield gives up on non-involvement and dives into the case.
Wakefield and Chen have some advantages. Wakefield has street connections with people willing to confide in him rather than the police. Chen has extensive Chinese connections who will only share information within their community.
The “why” for the killings is elusive. The police, the motorcycle gangs and the Chinese leaders are disconcerted. They are accustomed to knowing “why”.
The pace builds as Wakefield, Chen and their staff gain information.
Wakefield is determined to find out “why”.
He has strong personal integrity. He expresses his personal creed:
“I’m a very simple guy. I do one thing well - better than anyone. I don’t compromise, and I don’t let myself owe.”
I would say he does another “thing” well. He has empathy. He relates to people including people he dislikes. He cares.
There was one more twist in the plot than I thought necessary. It is but a minor flaw.
Hell and Gone is an excellent book. Between Wiebe and A.J. Devlin the mean streets of Vancouver have a pair of outstanding sleuths in Wakefield and Jed “Hammerhead” Ounstead. I expect Hell and Gone to be in contention for awards in 2022.