Robert Crais Meets John Steinbeck: Derek Wade’s Murder in Marin County

Jack Brubaker, Private Investigator, finds himself in big trouble when he wakes up in a woods next to a decomposing body. And this is only the beginning of the funhouse as this complicated and well-plotted who-done-itunfolds. Derek Wade’s debut novel Murder in Marin Countyis a collision of Robert Crais meets John Steinbeck. This is no hyperbole either. The novel is filled with standard (albeit mostly unpredictable) detective tropes (the hardened police detective antagonist, the first person ironic narrator, gun fights and lots of misdirection); it’s all there in typical genre style. But that is only half of this novel. It’s the other half that makes Mr. Wade’s first novel so memorable. Almost immediately we are immersed in the beautiful, enigmatic Sausalito setting filled with quirky characters and small town marina life. This is where Mr. Wade excels. He is writing in the new Literary Genre style with comfortable, typical detective novel tropes but combining these with more literary techniques. Brubaker is psychologically complex and multi-layered – a gentler, kinder Sam Spade who knows his way around a sailboat as well as the dark alleys of drug dealers. His sidekick, the eccentric, ex-military Dolliver, is good with guns, but is a character pulled right out of Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursdayor Tortilla Flat. The setting, like the ocean that demands so much attention, is a character in itself. The author tells us he is a sailor, a world traveler, and Brubaker is one as well. Here’s where the novel really finds its footing. The sailing scenes, the marina and coastal life, the metaphors of water and land and finding ones place between – this is what makes for such satisfying reading. Murder in Marin Countywill satiate your detective novel fix, but will give you what all great stories do: an immersive experience with plot, characters, and setting that stays with you far longer than the last page. I’m looking forward to reading much more from Mr. Wade.

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