Reviewed by Harriet Devine
When I started reading Fall From Grace, I hadn’t realised it was part of a series – the fifth part, to be exact. This is always risky as you never know whether lack of knowledge of the preceding books is going to radically affect your appreciation. In fact, though probably that knowledge would have upped the ante a bit, I didn’t feel in the least deprived. Certainly there are characters who appeared in earlier novels, ditto events that are alluded to, but all that did as far as I was concerned was to make me think I’d like to go backwards sometime and see where and how it all began.
This, then, as readers better informed than I am will know, is the fifth novel in the David Raker series. Here’s how Tim Weaver describes his initial idea of what David should be like:
He’d be big, tough, intelligent, attractive, unflappable and highly skilled, but he’d also understand people and identify with them. He’d be as good a psychologist as he was a detective, and physically – while he could hold his own – he wouldn’t be Superman. He wouldn’t be able to dodge bullets. He’d be a human being, and everything – all the edges and flaws – that came with it.
And that is indeed the character he ended up in creating, though in fact David is not a detective, or at least not part of the police force. He is a missing persons’ investigator, and in this novel he is faced with an apparently insoluble challenge. A man has walked out of his remote Dartmoor cottage to fetch some logs for the fire, and has disappeared into thin air. When his wife stepped out a few minutes later to see where he’d got to, there was no sign of him, and yet there are views in every direction across the empty moorland, so if he’d walked, or been driven, he would be visible. His wife is distraught, and David is hired to look for him by her police officer daughter Melanie Craw, with whom he has some past history.
Like his daughter, Leonard Franks was in the police, a high up and highly respected officer by the time he retired. David meets his two closest colleagues, talks to his daughter and his wife, tried to build up a picture of what could have happened and why. Photographs are produced, and old diaries and notebooks, some of which add to the mystery rather than decreasing it. A mysterious man keeps appearing, apparently bent on preventing David from discovering the truth – or possibly looking for Franks himself. A great switchback of twists and turns ensues, in which David is never sure who he can trust. He encounters great personal danger along the way, and his newly discovered and much loved daughter Annabel is put in jeopardy. All very exciting, and I certainly didn’t guess the twist at the end.
This is one of those novels where a second story runs in parallel with the main plot, which appears to have nothing at all to do with it, though of course we know that in the end the connection will be revealed. This is getting to be rather a common device in crime fiction, and one I must say I don’t usually enjoy much, though it does hike up the suspense considerably. Here this sub-plot turns out to be absolutely crucial to the way the main plot develops, though in fact we don’t realise quite how crucial until the very end.
It’s always difficult to write about a crime novel without giving too much away. So all I’m going to do is to recommend this book to anyone who wants a good solid immersion in mystery, suspense and police procedures. David is an attractive character, and I wished him well with his complicated private life as well as his rather difficult relationship with the police, who view him with some suspicion since he is not one of them but is often working on the same cases. Weaver does a great job of leaving you as uncertain as David is himself about who to trust, and the final revelations about machinations in the higher echelons of the police force are rather disturbingly convincing. I’m sure there must be readers out there who’ve read the earlier books in the series, so if you are one of them, do comment and tell me what you thought, and which was your favourite.
Harriet Devine is one of the editors of Shiny New Books.
Tim Weaver, Fall from Grace (Penguin, London: 2014). 9781405913461, 578 pp., paperback.