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Review: New crime fiction from Sam Wiebe, Suzanne F. Kingsmill and Peter James

Invisible Dead

By Sam Wiebe, Random House Canada, 309 pages, $24.95

Haven't yet heard of Sam Wiebe? You will soon. For now, start with Invisible Dead, a gritty Vancouver-based novel of crime and loss. Wiebe won the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for his first Dave Wakeland novel, Last of The Independents, and Invisible Dead is proof that he's no one-hit-wonder. It's smart and sophisticated. The dead – well, missing – person is Chelsea Loam, who disappeared 11 years earlier. She was a woman attracted to power and the danger it brings. She was also drawn to crime and the adrenalin rush it brought. It appears that the combo was deadly, but which one killed her? And why? That's the puzzle facing Wakeland, a police officer turned private investigator. He has no idea the shadow of Chelsea Loam is just as powerful – and dangerous – as the real woman was. Lots of personal demons and good backstories give this novel heft. Wiebe is definitely a writer on the rise.

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Crazy Dead

By Suzanne F. Kingsmill, Dundurn, 264 pages, $11.99

The fourth outing for zoologist Cordi O'Callaghan is, literally, depressing. O'Callaghan finds herself in the throes of an unrelenting black pit and is admitted to Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). This is a place where people with mental illnesses are supposed to be safe, but when one patient dies it's clear to O'Callaghan that there's murder afoot. Kingsmill, who hails from Toronto, is a zoologist and obviously knows plenty about depression and its treatment at CAMH. Combine that with a locked-ward mystery, loaded with suspects high (doctors, staff) and low (patients) we end up with both a why-done-it and who-done-it. Both plot lines work and Kingsmill once again delivers a first-rate story with an engaging heroine.

Love You Dead

By Peter James, Macmillan, 438 pages, $23.99

I love the Roy Grace series and can't understand why the BBC doesn't add it to its stable of great TV dramas. This is the 12th book in the series and not one of them is weak. The detective, Roy Grace, is loosely based on a real detective and Love You Dead has its genesis in a real crime so there's a gritty reality that readers of good British cop novels are sure to find irresistible. Detective Superintendent Grace has his problems; his wife is missing and an old case still plagues him, but the real thing on his mind is a Black Widow in Brighton. Someone is luring elderly men into love and marriage and then killing them and cleaning out their bank accounts. Seems clear enough except that this is no ordinary killer but one with nerve and a thorough knowledge of exotic and untraceable methods of killing. One of James's best yet.

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