David Raker is a former journalist who has been at the sharp end, the places where bullets fly, knives flash, and explosions separate the bodies and limbs of decent men. Now, he has left the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan behind, and he plies his trade in what is, ostensibly, a more civilised environment, but still one where greed, violence, depravity and deception are an everyday – and very viable – currency. Where could that be? Correct. The dark streets of London. Raker’s business sounds simple. He looks for missing people. Sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives and parents who have disappeared. Vanished. Went to work one day, and never caught the ‘bus home. People whose absence becomes more grievous day on day for their loved ones, but folk whose here-today-gone-tomorrow status has defeated the limited resources of the police.
Raker has a special empathy with his clients. Like them, grief and loss still gnaw away at his heart and soul, but he has the slight advantage of knowing what happened to his loved one. Derryn. His adored wife. Taken in a prolonged tug of war between her spirit and the implacable demon of cancer. Raker watched her fade away, watched her beautiful skin turn to fragile parchment as the disease ate its way through her body.
But he has, as far as is possible, moved on. He has an unexpected family in the form of a daughter from an early relationship, and he keeps his chin up and his eyes bright. Because to do otherwise would mean self destruction, and he owes the physically absent but ever-present spirit of Derryn that much. His world, however, and such stability as he has been able to build into it, is rocked on its axis when a woman turns up at a West End police station claiming to be his wife. Derryn. Dead and buried these nine years. Her fragile remains consigned to the earth. He sees the woman through a viewing screen at the police station and he is astonished. In front of him sits his late wife, the love of his life, and the woman for whom he has shed nine years of tears.
In terms of improbable plot lines, Tim Weaver has form. You Were Gone is his ninth David Raker novel, and he has staked out his territory as a writer who sets questions which seem unanswerable. I have to confess that in the earlier books, I was tempted to think, “Oh, come on – you cannot be serious..!” Now, however I have learned to trust Tim Weaver, and I know that however impossible the conundrum he sets, he will provide a plausible – if audacious – resolution.
Raker faces a series of events which force him to question his own sanity. Someone, somewhere has constructed a brilliant plot to undermine his sense of self and his memories. Who can he trust? The police investigation into the ‘reappearance’ of his wife seems skewed and slanted against him. Why has a widely respected doctor offered the police evidence that he had treated Raker for an obscure psychological syndrome? Why does Raker have no memory of this? What secrets lie in the overgrown ruins of a London mental hospital?
So many questions. The answers do come, and the whole journey is great fun – but occasionally nerve racking and full of tension. Tim Weaver (right) has crafted yet another brilliant piece of entertainment, and placed a further brick in the wall built for people who know that there is nothing more riveting, nothing more calculated to shut out the real world and nothing more breathtaking than a good book.