Reviewed by Ian Thomas Shaw
In what is truly an extraordinary narrative of 19th century detective work, Sean Haldane has demonstrated his exemplary writing skills.
The Devil's Making, Haldane's first novel, takes place in Victoria, British Columbia in 1868 where beneath the facade of British correctness, the colony's residents--Americans, English, Canadians, Chinese and First Nations--engage in seemingly unending deception, immorality and hypocrisy.
Chad Hobbes, a newly arrived "Oxford man" enters the fledging Victoria constabulary as the colony's first detective. The assignment - to investigate the brutal murder of an unorthodox American doctor. Unconvinced that the evidence against the primary suspect, Tsimshian chief Wiladzap, is anything more than circumstancial, Hobbes pursues inquiries among the European and native population of Victoria in the hopes of vindicating Wiladzap. In the process, he not only uncovers many of the colonists' darkest secrets, but is also awakened to his innermost desires.
Haldane's ability to bring to life 19th Century British Columbia and portray with such fine precision the attitudes, prejudices and beliefs of the period is a remarkable achievement. The Devil's Making is a page-turner written in exceptional prose with elaborate and exciting descriptions of the inhabitants and locales of pre-confederation Vancouver Island.
Although The Devil's Making is Haldane's first novel, it has earned him the prestigious Arthur Ellis 2014 Best Novel from the Crime Writers of Canada. The Devil's Making is published in Canada by Stone Flower Press and distributed by Red Tuque Books (www.redtuquebooks.ca).