David Raker finds people. Mostly these people are lost in physical form: sometimes he finds them alive but sometimes dead, and in the seven Raker novels which preceded I Am Missing, author Tim Weaver has composed variations on this theme. Now, however, Raker’s latest client is very visible and tangible, if a little careworn. Richard Kite has a big problem. He has no idea who he is or who he was. Found lying on the shingle shore near Southampton Water, bruised, battered and barely conscious, he was briefly the hot property of the tabloid press, starring as a nine day wonder before the media and their public grew bored of the tale and moved on to fresh sensations.
Raker agrees to take on the case on a more-or-less pro bono basis. Whatever and whoever Richard Kite once was, he has not brought wealth of any kind with him into his new life. Raker’s initial trip south to meet Kite is less than fruitful. Kite only recalls two shadowy images from his past; one is that he is looking out across a lonely beach to a grey expanse of water; is it the sea, perhaps, or a river? The other image is just as enigmatic; Kite sees a television screen, and on it is a graphic of a broadcasting pylon emitting what seems to be a children’s programme.
Raker is a different kind of investigator. His background is not security, law enforcement or military. His previous career was in journalism, and this means that his cases are rarely settled by force of arms or fisticuffs. Instead, he has a sharp eye for inconsistencies in statements and accounts from the people he deals with, and he can usually spot a lie or an evasion at a hundred paces. When he discovers that Kite has been receiving therapy from a distinguished psychotherapist, he makes an appointment to see her and, within just a few minutes of the interview starting, he senses that she is not telling him everything she knows.
Meanwhile, Weaver (right) gives us what seems to be a parallel but unconnected narrative. Two girls, sister and step sister, apparently living in a remote moorland community, perhaps in the north of England, have taken to sneaking out of their house after dark, and climbing up the hill onto the moors, where they have constructed an imaginary and malevolent presence out there in the wind and rain-swept darkness. Malevolent it certainly seems to be, but is it just a figment of the girls’ lurid imaginings?
At this point, with Raker’s investigation about as productive as trying to extract blood from a stone, I will call a halt to the plot synopsis. This is because Weaver has made a beautifully designed surprise for us. It was a shift that I never saw coming, and it is one which makes the final third of the book totally compelling. Fans of the series will be pleased to learn that we get the almost de rigeur exploration of a part of underground London that has been hidden, neglected and forgotten but, having given us this, Weaver makes certain we are all safely seated expecting one thing, before using his smoke and mirrors to reveal something else altogether.
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I AM MISSING