The White Van

Patrick Hoffman, 2014

At a dive bar in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, drug-hustling Emily Rosario is drinking whiskey and looking for an escape from her desperate lifestyle. When she is approached by a Russian businessman, she thinks she might have found her exit. At a hotel near the airport, the businessman and his partner, an older Russian woman, make Emily a proposition: take part in a small identity theft. The plan is vague, but they offer cash and a steady supply of drugs. A week later—disoriented and wanted for robbery—Emily finds herself on the run for her life.

When veteran cop Leo Elias hears about an unsolved bank robbery, the missing money proves too strong a temptation. A series of bad investments has left Elias broke, alcoholic and desperate for an easy way out of his debt. Elias decides to take the case into his own hands, hoping to find Emily and the money before anyone else does. However the case spins out of control and soon Leo Elias has crossed lines that can never be undone. 

A sharply drawn cast of characters—dirty cops, Russian drug dealers, Sixth Street junkies, Chinese black-market traders, street smart Cambodians, and shady money lenders—all take part in this intense tour through San Francisco’s underbelly. Confronted with the intimate details of characters that blur the line between good and evil, and twists that surprise until the end, readers of The White Van will find their own moral code challenged by the do-or-die decisions the characters are forced to make.

Awards and Honors

  • Shortlisted for a CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award

  • Best Ten Mysteries of 2014 - The Wall Street Journal

  • Best 100 Books of 2014 - The San Francisco Chronicle

  • Best 22 Literary Debuts of 2014 - Buzzfeed


"[A] gritty and exhilarating first novel...Everything in his unpredictable fiction has the dissonant clink of alarming truth. The White Van, with it's quick and scary turns, provides a hell of a ride."



"Stuffed with truly shocking twists." 

- Isabella Biedenharn, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY


"Filled with epic twists and savage turns, the pace is relentless, and Hoffman’s drive sets fire to the pages as he crawls across the sinister black underbelly of the Californian dream. Hoffman unflinchingly looks into the heart of the sleaziest inhabitants of the underworld, yet manages to bring each of them alive in distinctive, almost hypnotic, detail. Their screams of pain and anguish sear every page."

- Jeffrey Wansell, UK DAILY MAIL



"A heist propels Hoffman’s outstanding first novel. Hoffman, who spent nine years working as a PI in San Francisco, writes with great authority about the city’s seamy side and the grim realities of life for its down-on-their-luck denizens."

- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Starred review