Written by Tim Weaver — David Raker has joined the select band of fictional characters whose return in a new book excites existing fans, and collects new ones with every publication. Raker finds people. People who may not want to be found, but have left loved ones and family searching for the truth, whatever it is. Chapters need endings, prayers need Amens, and riddles need solutions.
After a couple of novels where he has been working away from home, Fall From Grace (2014) and Never Coming Back (2013), Raker is on home ground here. He is in a London of highways and byways, forgotten streets, urban myths and old crimes which still cast their shadows over the present day. For new readers, an introduction to Colm Healy is necessary. Healey is an embittered and unpredictable former Met Police detective. Despite a brilliant clear-up rate he has finally exhausted the patience of his bosses and has been sacked. He has history with Raker. They have saved each other’s lives both literally and figuratively, but now Healy is virtually down and out. Obsessed with a gruesome triple murder that he failed to solve he is living in his rusted car and is on Jobseekers’ Allowance.
Raker tries to get Healey back into the land of the living by arranging job interviews, giving him money and generally offering tough love. When Healy finally – and conclusively – goes off the radar, Raker is drawn like a magnet to the deaths which drove his old friend to distraction – and doom. Three murders. Gail Clarke and her twin daughters Abigail and April. Throats cut and left to bleed out in the cramped box of a flat in a neglected and decaying suburban high-rise.
What follows is the stuff of nightmares. Sometimes we are uncertain if these nightmares are actually happening, or just the feverish dreams of damaged minds drifting in and out of reality. Streets and buildings which are ostensibly mundane and humdrum become crime scenes, both ancient and modern. Raker flounders through the chaos, finding more questions than answers. What happened to Healy? Why were Gail Clarke and her children killed? Who is the mysterious man-friend seen in their home videos? What is the sinister secret hidden in the down-at-heel museum of Victorian penny slot machines?
Weaver certainly knows how to construct a complex plot, and people it with bruised and bitter characters. I was beginning to think that two of the most challenging mysteries facing Raker could only be explained with the intervention of the paranormal, but thankfully that’s not the case. The secrets are finally given up, but you will be kept guessing until the last few pages of the book. Raker himself is an unusual character. We have not the slightest idea what he looks like. He is not defined by his taste in music, the food he eats, or his relationships with women. His parents are dead, as is his wife. He has two children for whom he feels affection, but they are not his daughters. He appears to have no social life and he never allows himself the luxury of any down time. In spite of this he dominates the stage and, while we may not warm to him as a person or wince with him when he is hurt, he is one of the more vibrant and unusual protagonists in modern crime fiction.
Read our interview with Tim Weaver here. What remains is released 16 July.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars