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Extract: The Missing Family by Tim Weaver

Our favourite missing persons investigator David Raker is back. In Tim Weaver’s latest novel, The Missing Family, Raker faces his toughest case yet: three family members took a paddle boat out to sea and, within a minute, they vanished. Where did they go, and how is this case linked to the disappearance of a killer from custody? Raker and his longtime ally Colm Healy investigate both cases – and, in doing so, put themselves in danger…

The Missing Family is out on 4th July 2024 and available to preorder now. Can’t wait that long? You’re in luck. Below is an exclusive extract of the book’s opening. We can’t wait to read the rest…

The Missing Family

Tim Weaver

The Missing Family
Tim Weaver

Part One


Police: … and I work in the Major Crimes Unit. The time is 9.17 p.m. For the tape, could you please state your full name?
Raker: David Raker.
Police: David, I need to inform you that this interview is being both audio and visually recorded and may be given in evidence if a case is brought to trial. Do you understand that?
Raker: I do.
Police: Thank you. As I just mentioned, my name is Detective Inspector Phillips, but if it would make you more comfortable, you can call me Aiden. We’ve got a lot to get through, but I’d like to start by asking you how – and where – all of this began.
Raker: It began how it always does for me.
Police: And how’s that?
Raker: With a missing person.

One Year Ago

After they arrested him, they took the suspect down to the basement.
        It was vast, a maze of nearly identical corridors and entrance-ways. Some of the doors had nameplates on but most didn’t, and it would have been impossible for an outsider to memorize the layout. They could see that he was attempting to, could see that his eyes were going to the minimal signage that existed down here, trying to anchor himself to something – anything – a mental trail of breadcrumbs that would help him find a way back out again.
        The two men either side of him knew exactly where they were going. Linkers and Ramis were long-time employees of the Skyline Casino and Resort and knew the layout of the basement intimately. Linkers had just celebrated his fourth year in the job; Ramis had been here since the Skyline opened in 2008 and was the most senior member of security. Before this, he’d done twenty-five years in the Met.
        Ramis glanced at the suspect.
        He hadn’t been on shift when the guy had actually been arrested. Instead, he’d arrived fifty-five minutes later, after a 2 a.m. call from Linkers saying the suspect had returned to the casino and was now seated at one of the blackjack tables. Ramis had immediately told Linkers to arrest the man, get him away from the public and into a side room. Linkers had done as Ramis had asked.
        It had taken Ramis almost an hour to get into the casino. At home, he’d had to pause at the edge of the bed, bones aching, head full of static, before hauling himself into the shower. It had been like this for a while. He was a week from retirement and knew, even if his mind was still fast, his body was calling time on the late nights, irregular hours and constant stress. As he’d dressed, his wife had told him gently that he didn’t have to go in. But he said he had to be there.
        ‘I need to be in when the cops arrive,’ he explained. ‘This is the guy.’
        Lorna, his wife, didn’t need to know more than that.
        Ramis was still aching a little now, over an hour on, but he pushed it all down. They’d almost arrived at the holding cells, four consecutive rooms that looked exactly like cells in a police station: small spaces with a bench, and a reinforced glass panel – covered by a sliding steel plate – embedded in the door.
        The cells were empty.
        There had been no other incidents so far tonight.
        Linkers opened the cell closest to them. As he did, Ramis glanced at the suspect again. He estimated the guy to be in his mid-twenties, although Ramis had never been great at ages. People aged differently based on the comforts they’d gone with or without, the kinds of lives they’d had. The suspect returned the look, and Ramis could see the man’s eyes were a deep blue. The guy was handsome, he supposed.
        ‘Can we get you a drink?’ Ramis asked.
        The man shook his head. ‘No, thank you.’ His voice was quiet. Ramis guided him into the windowless room, sitting him down on the padded bench. Everything smelled of disinfectant. Mostly, people ended up in here because they’d been caught trying to cheat the casino, or were drunk. Sometimes there were pickpockets, or small-time con artists working gullible patrons, or sex workers in the bars pretending they were hotel guests.
        But they’d never had anyone like this guy.
        Never a cold-blooded killer.
        Linkers pushed the door shut and turned the handle ninety degrees to the left. Another clunk as a heavy-duty deadbolt locked into place.
        Ramis and the man stared at each other through the glass panel, and then Linkers pulled down the steel plate. Ramis could no longer see the man but, softly, he thought he could hear him crying. He glanced at Linkers, whose expression seemed to echo his own. Somehow this felt different from what they’d expected. The man seemed smaller and more vulnerable than they’d imagined – a frightened animal trapped inside a six-by-seven room, with no window, an unbreakable steel plate, and a door that could withstand 250 pounds of pressure before it even shifted a centimetre.
        This guy had butchered a man and stolen his money.
        Now it was all over.
        It seemed such a perfunctory ending.
        There was a kitchen opposite, and Ramis started the coffee machine. In the meantime, he told Linkers to get back up to the casino floor and meet the two detectives from Thames Valley Police. As Ramis waited, he went to an app on his phone that his daughter had downloaded for him, which contained articles he’d saved from newspapers and websites. He loved current affairs, loved knowledge, and especially liked to be up to speed on the things young people were talking about, because that way he could seem more interesting to his children and grand-kids. He was midway through an article on an actress he knew his daughter loved when he heard a voice from the cell.
        Ramis decided to ignore the man. The police would be here soon. They could deal with him.


Ten minutes later, Linkers and the cops entered the corridor.
        Linkers did the introductions.
        Detective Inspector Bakhash. Detective Sergeant Clarkson.
        Bakhash’s eyes went to the holding cell. ‘We appreciate what you’ve done here. If you two hadn’t been on the ball, we might never have bagged him.’
        ‘I was in bed,’ Ramis said, ‘so all the thanks should go to Neil.’
        Linkers broke out into a smile. The younger man was chuffed with the praise from Ramis. He was a nice kid. Ramis nodded at him and gestured to the cell. Linkers grabbed the keys from his pocket and began to unlock the door.
        The mechanisms clicked and released.
        Bakhash stepped into the open doorway.
        ‘What’s going on?’ he said.
        To start with, Ramis thought he was talking to the suspect.
        But then Bakhash glanced back across his shoulder at Ramis.
        ‘I said, what’s going on?’
        The two security men moved closer; Ramis saw Linkers stiffen, heard him mutter, ‘What the hell?’
        And then Ramis stepped all the way inside the cell.
        ‘I don’t . . .’ Ramis trailed off. ‘I don’t understand.’
        The cell was empty.
        The killer had vanished.


Chapter One

I parked my car in the same spot the Fowlers had left theirs eight months ago.
        It was May and the sun was out, but the temperature hadn’t quite caught up: it still felt like early spring, a cold wind whipping in off the moors, a sea of yellow gorse close to the road shivering in the breeze.
        The road I’d parked on ended twenty feet ahead of me at an old wooden gate. On the other side was the stone path that eventually led to the quarry. It was hard to see much of Dartmoor on my right because of a large, ragged tor, but on my left the moorland swept away from me in waves, a vast, undulating ocean of brown grass, grey crags and wind-battered trees.
        I locked the car and headed to the gate.

It happens the September before.
        It’s a Sunday and the five of them have driven up early from their home in Totnes. The drive takes just over an hour. There’s no parking close to the water, so they have to leave the car in a layby on the nearest road and walk the rest of the way, following a winding stone track half a mile up to the quarry. Marc and Kyle carry the boat between them, chairs loaded up inside, Clara has the towels, Sarah the cool box, and two-year-old Mable totters along behind them all.
        It’s a warm day, more like summer than autumn, the skies a pristine blue, and even on the elevated peaks of Dartmoor, there isn’t a breath of wind. When the five of them finally arrive at the quarry, the lake is still in shadow, the ragged wall of granite on its eastern flank so high that the sun hasn’t yet crested it. There’s an almost identical sweep of speckled granite on the western edge, except this gently curves in an L-shape, creating a natural amphitheatre around the lake. The cliffs that encircle the former quarry are dramatic and beautiful, and that beauty is complemented by the tranquillity of the lake itself: once, Parson’s Quarry had been a vast tin mine, crumbling miners’ huts still scattered at its edges; now it’s one of the best wild swimming spots on the moors.
        That’s exactly why the Fowlers have always loved it here. It’s why they’re here today.
        But, by sunset, three of them will have disappeared.

It took me just over twenty minutes to walk from the car to the mouth of the quarry, so it would have taken the Fowlers longer as the two men had been carrying the boat, and Sarah would have been constantly waiting for Mable to catch up.
        After the initial dip into the ravine, the approach was almost all ascent, which would have added minutes too.
        I looked around me on the way up, but there wasn’t much to see: the climb had a hidden, secluded feel, views of the rest of Dartmoor obscured by steep hills and banks of trees and the skeletons of old miners’ huts.
        At the top, the quarry almost seemed to appear out of nowhere. The cloud-scudded sky was like a roof over it all, and as the trail faded under my feet and I moved on to the grass banks that fed down to the edge of the lake, it was as if I’d entered some secret chamber.
        I understood straight away why the Fowlers had loved it here.

Other families begin arriving at the quarry an hour after the Fowlers have set up, but what Marc and Sarah have always adored about this place is how – even on the sunniest days – it’s never packed. That’s partly because a lot of people still have no idea it’s a wild swimming spot. But it’s mostly because there are only seven parking spaces in the layby, and the next nearest place to leave your car is over two miles away.
        The sun crests the eastern flank of the quarry just after ten and Sarah spends the rest of the day running around, applying lotion to Mable, who in turn immediately tries to wipe it off, gets it in her eyes, and then starts to cry because it stings. Sarah perches on a chair at the edge of the water and she and Mable build mud-castles, throw a beachball around and paddle together, while the others repeatedly get out on the lake. Mable has arm-bands on, even though she’s not keen on the water – but Sarah’s not one for taking risks. At nineteen, she took a drunken risk with her then-boyfriend, and nine months later Kyle was born.
        ‘Marc, you coming out again?’
        Sarah looks up to see Kyle handing Marc an oar.
        ‘I need to stay here with your mum, mate,’ Marc says, glancing at Mable, who is fully into the clingy stage and throws a tantrum if Sarah isn’t nearby. Sarah has been on toddler duty for almost eight hours, and Marc has promised her that he’s going to attempt to take the reins for a while to give her a few minutes to herself. ‘Plus, we should probably start packing up in a bit,’ Marc adds.
        ‘Ah, come on,’ Kyle responds, and throws the oar to Marc.
        Marc has no choice but to catch it.
        He looks at Sarah.
        The other families that were here earlier have gone now, and much as Sarah likes it here, she’s more than ready to go home.
        ‘Please, Mum,’ Kyle says, and gestures to Clara, at the sling she’s sporting. ‘My shipmate’s injured, and the dinghy’s so awkward without two of us rowing.’
        Sarah wants to say no.
        Instead, she says, ‘Okay. But don’t be long.’
        ‘We’ll just go to the middle and back,’ Marc says.
        ‘And make sure he doesn’t drown,’ Sarah tells Kyle, nodding at Marc. Marc pretends to be offended, but Kyle and Clara both laugh. ‘Bloody cheek,’ Marc replies good-naturedly, and sits down in the boat.
        Kyle and Marc grab an oar each and start to row the three of them out. The dinghy is just under fifteen feet long, but unlike many boats of its size, it doesn’t have a motor, making it easier to transport. Instead, Marc paid to have a clip-on roof put on to the back, so – if either he or Sarah take Mable out – she can sit in the shade. The roof also has roll-down sides that can be untied and dropped to provide further protection from the sun, and as the men continue to row out, Sarah can just make out Clara behind the yellow plastic. Her body is slightly favouring the left, some of the bandaging on her shoulder visible beneath her beach dress.
        Sarah checks her watch and collapses into her chair. She’s so tired.
        Mable wanders over and climbs into her lap.

I went all the way down to the shore.
        There was no one else here, just as there hadn’t been at 6 p.m. on that Sunday in September. I was right in the middle of the shoreline – perfectly centred between the east and west sides of the quarry, which were about 200 metres apart – knowing that this was roughly where Sarah had been seated with Mable as the others had rowed out. North to south, the lake was slightly bigger – about 300 metres end to end – so when the dinghy finally came to a stop in the centre of the lake, it would have been a minimum of 100 metres away from land. I also knew that – exhausted from a day of running around after a two-year-old who wouldn’t leave her side – Sarah had been unable to keep her eyes open and dozed off for less than a minute as Mable sat in her lap playing with some toys.
        But less than a minute was all it took.

Sarah’s eyes ping open.
        Mable isn’t on her lap any more. Her toys are scattered on the floor and she’s hitting her spade against the arm of Sarah’s chair, trying to get her mum’s attention. Sarah sits bolt upright, squeezes her eyes shut and tries to wake herself.
        She glances at her watch and feels a wave of relief. She dropped off for less than a minute. She’s been aware of the sounds around her the whole time too – the water lapping at the shore, the birdcalls – but it doesn’t bring her any comfort. Because when she looks at Mable – how small she is, at her nappy – Sarah realizes her daughter could have easily wandered off. She could have drowned, even with the armbands on.
        She grabs Mable and brings her in for a hug. Mable tries to wriggle out of it, but Sarah holds on and it’s as if the two-year-old realizes her mum may need this moment, because she settles, presses her head against Sarah’s chest and goes quiet.
        Sarah’s gaze switches to the lake.
        The dinghy is right in the middle now. It’s come to a stop, the back of the boat facing her, Marc, Kyle and Clara obscured by the clip-on hood.
        All around the boat, the lake is still, the surface like glass.
        Sarah frowns, steps forward.
        Something isn’t right.
        She moves down to the edge of the lake. One of the oars has become detached from the boat and is gently floating away. And as the oar drifts, as a throbbing at the back of Sarah’s head tells her that something here is definitely wrong, the dinghy starts to turn, the point of the bow edging around in her direction.
        That’s when she sees that there’s no one under the roof.
        In fact, there’s no one on the boat at all.

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The Missing Family

Tim Weaver

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