I Am Missing by Tim Weaver
(David raker #8)
When a young man wakes up bruised and beaten, with no memory of who he is or where he came from, the press immediately dub him ‘The Lost Man’.
Naming himself Richard Kite, he spends the next ten months desperately trying to find out who he is. But despite media appeals and the efforts of the police, no one knows him.
Richard’s last hope may be private investigator David Raker – a seasoned locator of missing people. But Raker has more questions than answers.
Who is Richard Kite?
Why does no one know him?
And what links him to the body of a woman found beside a London railway line two years ago?
Could Richard be responsible for her death – or is he next?
I am a fan of the authors David Raker, missing persons, private investigator series. I find the theme of missing persons, very interesting, whenever I read real-life cases. I am often curious as to the circumstances someone disappeared and the lack of sightings or evidence. There is a case local to me, of a teenage boy that disappeared 20 years ago, never to be seen again. I cannot even begin to imagine the families pain and how much they must long to know what happened to their son.
With this novel in the series, the author has added a new unique spin into the plot. It is the missing person, seeking his help. Richard Kite was found broken and bruised by an RNLI station, in Southampton waters. He now suffers from dissociative amnesia, meaning he has limited memory and sadly that includes most of his personal details. He has no recollection of his real surname and no one has come forward to claim him, despite persistent help from medical professionals, a local reverend and police. The media have dubbed him #TheLostMan who is Richard Kite and what is his story?
PI David Raker begins his investigations by gathering further information from those in Kite’s life currently. His London based therapist and the local Reverend that has offered him help and support. When Raker gathers conflicting accounts, he decides to dig further. Raker soon discovers Kite’s phone contains spyware and he suspects Dr Naomi Russum of being involved. But why would she hinder Kite’s recovery? Why does she persist to show him photographs of an unknown female? Who is the unknown female?
Alternative chapters show the childhood background story of sisters Penny and Beth. Also extracts from an article written by Andrew Reece. At first I found these confusing, that was until, at the halfway mark, the novel takes a monumental turn and the penny drops! As the reader, you are never sure who to trust and their motives, within the plot. Which makes the novel unpredictable, edgy and never for one single page, boring!
It is impossible to leave a full review, as to give away parts of the plot/themes in the second half of the novel, would be to give spoilers. I am insanely impressed with this novel. Its complex multifaceted plot, that can only truly be appreciated when you turn the very last page…….
Highly recommended 5*
Q) I have followed your missing persons PI series, for quite some time. For any readers who may not know. Can you give a summary of yourself and David Raker?
A) Well, I’m much less interesting than David Raker, so I’ll get the boring bit out of the way first. I flunked my A-Levels and, more through luck than judgement, ended up at a publishing company as a magazine journalist, writing about games and tech mostly, but also some film and TV too. After that, I became an editor, running magazines rather than writing for them, and a long time after that (about twelve years!), I made the leap into full-time writing, mainly thanks to Richard and Judy, who picked my fourth book, NEVER COMING BACK, for their Book Club. I’m now on Book 8, I AM MISSING, and thanks to the support of all the wonderful readers out there, am still able to do what I do best: staring out of the window, praying for inspiration J
David Raker, meanwhile, has led a much more colourful life. He’s an ex-newspaper journalist who spent time in places like South Africa, the US, Iraq and Afghanistan, and then kind of stumbled into a career finding missing people after his much-loved wife, Derryn, lost a long battle with cancer. Looking for the missing helped him grieve, it gave him a purpose, and pretty soon, it became his entire life. He’s a smart, single-minded, brave, emotional, often vulnerable man, and damaged in a different way to some of the classic thriller heroes: except his weakness isn’t alcohol, or drugs, or women, it’s this persistent inability to adjust to his wife’s passing. He’s really quite a lonely soul.
Q) I was absolutely gripped by this novel and it was insanely difficult to review, due to the huge turn halfway through. I was adamant to not spoil this. What was the inspiration behind this twist?
A) It’s very hard to talk about the twists in the novel, or even their inspiration, without massively giving away the plot, so I’m going to dance around this question. What I will say is that I put a lot of time into trying to come up with new and interesting ways to surprise the reader, and this was no different. Also: thank you for not spoiling anything!
Q) The series runs with a missing persons theme. Something which fascinates me, also. Was there an individual case that inspired this novel?
A) Most of the books are amalgam’s of different, true-life investigations, but I AM MISSING was more directly inspired by a case from the States, where a man called Benjamin Kyle woke up, badly beaten, outside a Burger King, with no memory of who he was or where he’d come from. Authorities weren’t able to locate his identity, or a family, so he existed in this kind of hinterland, where he couldn’t get a social security number – and, therefore, become a part of the system – because he had no ID to prove who he was. There was a semi-happy ending for Kyle, but there’s a great Reddit thread where he talks about the challenges (physical, emotional, psychological) when you lose your memory.
Q) so many missing person’s cases have drawn my attention and I have continued to follow the story over many years even. From high profile to smaller, virtually unknown cases. Local to me, at the Isle Of Wight, there is a specific case of a young teenage boy, who vanished over 20 years ago and has never been seen since. The one thing the family struggled with in the early years of the investigation is the lack of media coverage. What are the virtually unknown cases, you have stumbled across in your research?
A) Oh, there’s tons of cases that didn’t get much publicity, but one that I always find very disturbing is the disappearance of Tara Calico. She was a 19 year old girl who vanished from her home town of Belen in New Mexico in 1988. There’s a great summation of the case here. If you’re a parent – or even if you’re not – it’s the sort of stuff to give you nightmares.
Q) What are your recommended reads in both fiction and non-fiction which cover missing person’s cases?
A) There are so many! I’ll give you a few you might not have read, though.
On the fiction side, I love Four Corners of Night by Craig Holden, which is an under-appreciated gem about two detectives working the case of a missing girl in America’s midwest, and who start to realise the disappearance is linked to another investigation they worked seven years before. I’m a huge fan of John Connolly’s early work as well, and The Unquiet – his sixth – handles difficult subject matter with a delicate hand as his protagonist Charlie Parker hunts for a missing psychiatrist and possible child abuser. And then there’s Night Film by Marisha Pessl, about a journalist’s hunt for a reclusive film director: this one is flawed, no doubt about it, especially the second half, but there’s just something about the world she creates that I absolutely love.
At the non-fiction end of things, a good one to check out is The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. It’s not exactly a barnstorming page-turner but, if you have the patience, it’s an absolutely fascinating account of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, inter-connecting two stories: that of architect Daniel Burnham, who helped shape the look of modern-day Chicago, and the life of HH Holmes, one of the world’s first, documented serial killers. Him and his ‘Murder Castle’, the hotel he ran in the city, were responsible for tens – possibly hundreds – of disappearances in the run-up to the Fair.
Q) This novel differs from previous cases in the series. In that it is the missing person seeking to be found, himself. What was the research process for this and in particular into dissociative amnesia?
A) Obviously, it’s very important to get the details right, especially as dissociative amnesia is a very specific type of memory loss where the person forgets everything – not just individual events, or a few hours, or days, but absolutely all of themselves. But I treated my research into this much the same way as I treat my research into everything: as a balancing act. Too little research and the world you’ve built doesn’t feel genuine; too much, and it begins to feel like an encyclopaedia. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle.
People buy thrillers to be thrilled. If you can learn a few things along the way, then that’s perfect, but predominantly, it’s about entertainment. So, I always try to ensure the characters, their motivations, their histories, their specialisms, feel correct and realistic, but I take liberties as well. The liberties I take, I (hope!) I’m careful to disguise, but I’d never try to shoehorn in some interesting research or tons of facts at the expense of pace and tension.
Something else too: when you go out and chat to experts in the field, you end up with hours and hours of recordings, 99% of which is massively interesting, because the people you talk to are fascinating. One of the hardest bits of the job is trying to decide which bits to use, and which to leave out.
Q) This novel is extremely intense and I found myself completely engrossed in the plot and characters lives. What is your writing process? Do you write for long hours, until the story, themes and characters have moved from your imagination to the page?
A) My writing process is rated S for Stressful! I’m not really a fan of planning. At a basic level, I find it a bit boring, but I also think it’s hard to get a sense of the characters, who they are, their motivations, and how they interact with other people, until they’re on the page. So, my planning for a book basically involves knowing the start – a mysterious and unexplained disappearance – and how it, potentially, might end, but everything in between is up for grabs.
I think a part of it harks back to your second question – how do you surprise the reader? I find the best way to surprise the reader is to surprise yourself. If I don’t know something is going to happen until I get there – a twist, a death, an event – then there’s a very good chance that the reader won’t see it coming either. In essence, if I’m surprising myself, I’ll probably surprise the reader.
I’ll be honest, it’s a scary and sometimes unpredictable way of working, because you’re never ‘ahead’ of the story – you don’t really know what’s coming and what the resolution will be until you’re literally putting the words on the page, and there’s always the chance what you’ll come up with will be awful. But, most of the time, thankfully, it hasn’t been. In fact, some of the very best and biggest moments in the Raker books – the things I get emails about from readers – are almost always the things that I never planned, or even thought about, until I got there.
*Huge thanks for agreeing to appear on my blog in a Q&A. I wish you every success with the release of I Am Missing 🙂