The Devil’s Making

Written by Seán Haldane
Review by Bethany Latham

It’s 1869, and Victoria, Canada is a diverse place. Europeans, Americans, Indians, and Chinese all inhabit the rough-and-tumble colony. Oxford-educated Chad Hobbes, fresh off the boat from England, takes a turn as policeman, the only job he can find. When a shady American alienist’s mutilated corpse is discovered in the woods and an Indian arrested for the crime, Hobbes doubts his guilt and embarks on an investigation.

This is a classic police procedural with an unusual setting. The melting pot that is Victoria, along with the uncertainty of British-U.S. relations, provides an interesting backdrop. The plotting isn’t exactly speedy, but this doesn’t detract from enjoyment of the story, and there are suspects aplenty. Hobbes is a bit over-concerned with sex, a believable characterization for an inexperienced twenty-something, and his struggle with the world opened to him by Darwin’s theories is an engaging one. The novel’s one misstep is regular transcription of Chinook (a pidgin trade language) dialogue, an unnecessary annoyance to the reader, which is then translated into English in parentheses. Otherwise, this Arthur Ellis Award-winner is a strong crime fiction debut with an interesting multicultural element.