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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fall From Grace by Tim Weaver

Viking, 416 pages, $26

Ninety-five percent of “Fall From Grace” by Tim Weaver makes a great psychological thriller/crime fiction. It’s the five percent that comes at the end that dispels the hypnotic haze.

Series star, London private investigator and former reporter David Raker, specializes in missing persons. His newest case (the fifth in Weaver’s series) is unusual for many reasons, not least of which is his client. DCI Melanie Craw and he have a checkered history. They have butted heads, most recently about eighteen months ago on a case which left a residual bad taste. But it is to Raker that Craw comes bearing a personally painful case. About six months previously, her father, Detective Chief Superintendent Leonard Franks, late of the Met, disappeared.

Franks and his wife, Ellie, moved to a remote Dartmoor house after his retirement. Somewhere on his way to the close-by lean-to to get more logs for his fireplace, he vanished. Victim to the bog that bordered his house? Captured by revenge-fueled criminals? Dementia? Money problems? Done in by his wife? For better or worse, Craw has come to Raker as a last resort. The police have hit a wall, and Craw has been threatened with censure if she continues a personal investigation.

Wary of Craw’s request and whether she is in fact laying all her cards on the table, Raker nevertheless accepts her case. The first thing he learns is that Craw suspects her father privately was working on a cold case. The more Raker investigates, the more he thinks it has something to do with a woman named Pamela Welland who was murdered in 1996. (The story’s current story takes place in 2013.) It is while raking through minutiae that he turns up little anomalies and clues not noticed by the cops which further drives his investigation.

Raker can tell he is making progress when he finds he is being shadowed, threatened, burgled, and beaten. His most difficult problem is to tell who is a reliable source, whom can he trust. Perhaps not even Craw falls into that category. How about Franks’ loyal colleagues, Carla Mahoney and Jim Paige? They meet with Raker and in many ways he is no better off than before. But one of them provides him with his breakthrough lead: Pamela Welland. The more Raker investigates Welland’s death, the more puzzled he becomes. There doesn’t seem to be anything untoward about the case. Her murderer was caught swiftly, he confessed, end of case.

This is where Weaver does an excellent job: laying out the crumbs for the circuitous trail Raker must travel. The topmost mystery, what happened to Franks when he stepped out of the house, is brilliantly played. As the case begins its final resolution, however, there is a high coincidence factor that makes a “big swallow” moment. It is the only thing that prevents an MBTB star recommendation. 

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