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I've just read my first book by suspense writer Tim Weaver and it looks as if I have a new author to follow. Gritty drama with a strong list of characters and an interesting storyline is a must for me and add in some rather spooky goings on and a possible serial killer has me staying up late at night to finish it. I haven't read his debut novel Chasing the Dead, but I imagine it's good, specially since I found I could read this book as a standalone book.
Seventeen-year-old Megan Carver went missing from her school and six months later the police have no further leads. So the parents call in David Raker, a missing persons investigator. The distraught parents know of no reason why their bright, intelligent daughter should go missing and it looks as if she has met with foul play. Either way they would wish to know what has happened to her.
David Raker is no stranger to grief and loss. Two years ago his wife died of cancer leaving him bereft. We know he used to be a journalist but not why he started his present career, but he seems to be excellent at his job. Unfortunately he can't see any way the girl can still be alive. The police investigation turned up nothing so can he do any better? The statistics are against him, as he tells a friend, 30,000 people in London alone go missing every year, never to be found. For a while the police, newspapers and public are following the story, as David also says, MWWS , or Missing white women syndrome is classed as intense activity for a short while and then another story takes over.
Raker starts by looking at the background to Megan's life and finds a few disturbing things that don't quite gel with what he's been told by the parents and police reports. An ex-boyfriend who is potentially violent wasn't investigated properly and Raker learns more disturbing facts from Megan's friends. Before long it becomes apparent that something is very wrong and that a possible serial killer is on the loose. Why then does he find himself framed for the kidnap of Megan, whom he never knew prior to the parent's contacting him? This is more than a police cover-up, and soon he is going to find himself in a very dark place indeed.
I found David very interesting and started to like him straight away. I found his character was much better than the standard hard ex-cop with a grudge against society. David is essentially a nice guy who isn't afraid to cry or show his soft side. He will fight for what he believes in though so is no lightweight. I found this refreshing in a male character. Some light relief is put in with a possible relationship between David and his near neighbor, Liz, but both are wary of getting involved too quickly.
There's a rather dark and sinister character that David finds out about from a bitter cop whose own daughter went missing. He's a man that is involved as a plastic surgeon and works for organized criminals, in particular, the Russian mafia. This adds an edge to the story as well as bringing in a possible suspect, but why would such a man be interested in young, pretty blonde girls?
Then a connection is found with a man who worked with both Megan and another missing girl, Leanne at a youth center. Unfortunately I can't say much about the character, as it's a plot spoiler. Beware though; this book has loads or red herrings and odd characters that look promising as suspects.
A bit different from the plot, this is my take on the plot and surrounding aspects. I thought the book a lot different than normal thrillers and liked the way Tim Weaver brings in parts of the plot that link with something the reader overlooks. This kept me guessing as well as wondering was I on the wrong track myself?
A strong use of technology adds some interest and CTTV footage unveils some shocking surprises. What really had me reading past my bedtime, however, were the descriptive elements, always very important to me. Several parts in the book focus on an area of mystery in a wood near to an abandoned rail track and one character describes it this way; -
'I've worked murders for fifteen years, and you can just feel when a place is bad, you get a sense for it. And those woods...something's seriously wrong with them.'
But the writer doesn't just use this for effect, he has his main character, Raker, take a look over the area and he describes it in a way that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
There are bodies found in the book (not a plot spoiler), some partially burnt and some butchered. This is quite early into the book. It can be gruesome so be warned. I felt it necessary to the plot so didn't mind. There is also a running commentary from one victim still in the hands of the murderer and this racks up the tension in a way I've rarely read before.
Another thing I found compelling was the fate of so many missing people. I was shocked by the statistics and wondered what happens to all these people. All to often we do give more time to missing people from a middle-class background who are high achievers and therefore unlikely to run away. Do we then discriminate against others? It's not something the author takes on as a moral issue, but the thought of it and the job of the main character made me wonder.
This book gives you a bit of everything. A superb thriller, a daunting read at times. A plot that twists and turns combined with some rather nasty characters and you get a read that's guaranteed to give you (thrilling) nightmares. Fine if you like that and I do. What you don't get is clichéd characters, a tired overused plot and banal dialogue. This sizzles and sparkles with a fresh new talent. I think this author is going to continue getting better by the book. I certainly hope so.
A Penguin Book. ISBN 978-0-141-04244-2.
549 large type pages in a paperback edition.
£4.39 on Amazon.co.uk.
Thanks for reading.
©Lisa Fuller 2011.