Tim Weaver’s 10-novel missing persons series has twice been selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, been nominated for a National Book Award, and shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger. His books are Sunday Times Top 5 bestsellers, have topped the charts on Audible, Kindle and Apple iBooks and are currently in development for TV. Oh, and we almost forgot: Tim made a podcast series calling Missing, which has been downloaded over 600,000 times, and includes an episode where he actually vanishes himself.
So if you’ve – ha! – missed out, or even if you haven’t, here’s Tim with what you need to know about his series – and, most importantly, the man at the heart of it all: his missing persons investigator, David Raker…
Who is David Raker?
Born in south Devon in the 70s, David Raker grew up on a farm on the outskirts of a village I closely modelled on Torcross. I love that part of the world, and have taken Raker back to his roots on a number of occasions, particularly in Never Coming Back when his search for a missing family brings him into contact with a ghost village inspired by the real-life tragedy of Hallsands. (The area also played a significant role in Fall from Grace.) At eighteen, he moved to London, and university, where he eventually became a journalist and met his beloved wife Derryn. He’s lived (except for a couple of newspaper-era foreign assignments) in London ever since, and the city is also where he made his dramatic career shift into missing persons – and where he laid Derryn to rest.
Wait, so Derryn’s dead?
Yes. Tragically, Derryn dies of breast cancer a year before the start of the first book, Chasing the Dead. She is only in her early thirties at the time. Her death has a profound effect on David Raker for great swathes of the series, and the sense of loss he feels at the death of the person he loved, above all others, drives much of what he does as a missing persons investigator, and is the event on which he builds his obsession. Because, make no mistake, Raker is obsessed.
With finding missing people?
Absolutely. It soon becomes the most important part of his life.
How did he make the switch to missing persons?
He fell out of love with journalism and, when Derryn got sick, didn’t want to be away from her. In her final months, she persuades him to help a friend of hers, whose daughter has gone missing and who the police have failed to find, and Raker eventually, reluctantly agrees. He instantly feels a connection to the lost and to the idea of bringing grieving families answers – and because the investigative side of the cases shares so much DNA with the stories he was unearthing on the paper, he never feels out of his depth. After Derryn passes away, missing people and their stories becomes the crutch on which he leans.
Does he work with the police?
No. The police view him with a deep and pervading suspicion. It doesn’t help that he used to be a journalist, even though he was a well respected one, and that conflict with the police plays out in the background of the books the entire time. He has old sources on the force, who he still uses in secret, but he’s only ever openly worked alongside one: a former cop called Colm Healy.
Healy crops up a lot in the series.
He does. In many ways, he’s something of a mirror image of David Raker – which is part of the reason they feel bound to one another – because Healy has also lost someone he loved very much. But where Raker is smart, controlled, patient and empathetic, Healy isn’t: he’s reactive, angry and hurting, and those things cost him his career at the Met, and many of the people he cared about in his life. That clash of personalities and approach also delivers, I hope, some of the series’ most dramatic (and most emotional) moments.
You called David Raker “smart, controlled, patient and empathetic.”
And I believe, and hope, that he is.
So he’s not a tough guy?
Definitely not. He’s not going to take out a room full of bad guys by himself. Raker’s weapon is his mind, the way he thinks and solves problems, and it’s the deep and personal connection he has to the people he’s trying to find. In many ways, he’s ordinary, in the sense that he’s a person struggling (like many of us do) with big, life-changing emotions such as grief and loneliness, but in other ways he’s quite extraordinary: the cases he takes on and works often seem impossible, and impossible to solve, but he never gives them up. Every single case matters – as well as every single person he’s trying to find.