Eric Wilson's 1978 mystery, "Vancouver Nightmare", spins alarmingly grim subject matter that makes my reaction tough to gauge. Impoverished districts, drug-peddling, and consequences of tangling with criminals are unquestionably relevant issues. Education about such a dangerous and all too present path is important but opinions differ on when to deliver it. Eric's fans are about age ten. With them in mind, I was uncomfortable about it being unsuitable for them. The story is handled as benignly as possible and I commend the author for writing delicately. No drug use or violence is portrayed, except a boy is battered and a girl shoved.
Tom's Grandparents, with whom he summers in Vancouver, introduce him to policemen. They mention a drug ring and later, he encounters a drug-peddling teen. He pretends to be a recruited runaway, believing the peddler will identify his boss. Since I imagine Tom to be 12, I find it far-fetched that infatuation with detection leaves any child willing to risk what he did. He entered the seedy area his Grandparents warned him against and spent a dirty, frightened night with a pusher who evaded security.
I rooted for the female teenager with whom Tom felt safe. She fed him and cared for pigeons, at the dingy apartment she could afford. Renting in the same building, the pusher took advantage of her horribly. He advertised her apartment as a messenger service for violent bosses and addicted customers, who traipsed through at any hour. Although dour, I consider this portion the most valuable lesson for children. Never having a single involvement with drugs, I too learned aspects like that which had never dawned on me. It is a very clear way to teach "beware the crowd you associate with". I find myself deciding that I approve of this novel after all.