Written by Tim Weaver — Before we start, I should let you know that I’ve known Tim for a number of years. We both used to work at the same company where he writes about computer games. So I was surprised when I found out that like me he loves crime fiction – the difference being that I read it and he writes it! The Dead Tracks is his second novel for Penguin about an ex-journalist called David Raker who has become private investigator specialising in missing persons.
It starts off with Raker being hired by the parents of Megan Carver to find the missing 17-year-old. The police think she’s dead, but as Raker digs into Megan’s background he discovers that she had some big secrets – secrets the cops failed to uncover. After Raker finds the bodies of a boy from Megan’s school, his father, and their dog, it becomes clear there’s much more to it. The girl is one of several blonde-haired, blue-eyed women to have disappeared in London. Raker teams up with an unstable and nigh-on unstoppable Irish cop called Healy, whose daughter may also have been a victim. Then the story really takes off
Halfway to two-thirds in I admit thinking this book may only get two or three stars. It was difficult to see where it was going and in some passages Raker seemed a little too interested in the quality of the flooring, what car someone’s got, the layout of their furniture or, indeed, what the coffee’s like. During sessions of dialogue, Weaver demonstrates that Raker reads people intently, but sometimes the character’s style doesn’t seem far off the tactics allegedly used by The News of the World. You might become frustrated with Raker’s confidence – he’s a touch smug. However eventually I decided the author doesn’t necessarily want us to love Raker unreservedly.
The final third of The Dead Tracks is riveting. Without wanting to spoil it for you, the Russians are involved, there’s a criminally insane plastic surgeon, a wounded greyhound, a police cover-up, great chases and a fantastic gun fight. The author handles the characters, dialogue and details well, despite all the action. It’s not as idiosyncratic as a Larsson novel, nor as direct as one by Harlan Corben, but I genuinely enjoyed following Raker as he tracked down the serial killer. And there’s a meaningful subtext too – Raker is coming to terms with the loss of his wife to cancer. How he misses her is what drives him to find missing people.
Weaver’s already editing his next book, The Last Exit, and it looks like we’ll be seeing more of Raker and Colm Healy. I’m looking forward to it.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars