Fall from Grace is my first introduction to Weaver’s David Raker and a story I won’t readily forget. Utilizing the picaresque
coastal areas of Devon and the dark Dartmoor landscapes, Weaver shapes what could have been a dense police procedural into an exciting hunt for Leonard Franks, a retired detective chief superintendent of London’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command. Weaver jumpstarts the action
as David meets with DCI Melanie Craw, Franks‘ daughter. Although Craw has been at odds with Raker in the past, she now pleads with him to take over the case and help find her missing father.
For the past couple of years, Leonard and his wife, Ellie, have
lived in Postbridge in the heart of Dartmoor. Shortly before he vanished, Franks mentioned doing some consultation work--but the copy of the case he was working on has also vanished. Whatever was in that file might have been enough for Franks to head out to the woodshed and never return. Unfortunately, Ellie, can add little to the investigation. While her gut tells her something more was at play, she tells Raker that her father was always a stickler for keeping his work and home life separate.
Buoyed by the fact that he knows how to find missing people (even if he
doesn’t necessarily play by the book), Raker arms himself with a sheaf of Franks’ documents, including his emails,
and his mobile phone and wallet, both of which were left behind at the cottage. There’s nothing in Franks’ financials--no anomalies or red flags, “only more dead ends” to add to the others that Melanie has industriously collected over the past nine months. The cold case, referred to Franks by two local coppers, obviously got to him, but both Melanie and Raker are positive that the case wasn’t enough for him to walk out of the door, turn his back on his life, and leave his wife, daughter, and grandchildren.
From the emails to a series of black diaries from 1982 to 1994, Raker learns that Franks probably lied to both his wife and his daughter about who he was working for. Eventually David travels to the Franks’ house in Dartmoor, where he finds himself plunging into a desperate cat-and-mouse game unfolding against a darkly stunning, windswept and wintry landscape. Here David meets the violent, merciless, unpredictable Neil Reynolds. Reynolds--an old nemesis of Franks--leaves a trail of clues back to a crumbling warehouse
on Old Kent Road. David watches, horrified, as after holding a knife to a boy's
throat Reynolds plots from the shadows of the warehouse, his ghostly face lit by the molten glow of a furnace.
Moving through two decades, Weaver connects the dots in David’s attempts to unlock Franks’ puzzle through a series of hand-written notes that purport to give a view of his cold cases and his decision to run one particular case himself:
the rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl in 1994 and the murder of an unidentified victim, an apparent drug dealer, in Lewishham in 2011. Striker is positive they might be connected to Franks’ disappearance,
the evil machinations of Reynolds, and some CCTV footage of the night the girl was picked up in a bar.
Weaver gets us to embrace a number of “gotcha-like” twists and turns, but I
was less enthusiastic about the unbelievable plot twists that shape up the
finale. Still, from the wilds of Devon to the bustle of London, Weaver
demonstrates his considerable storytelling skills, linking together the cold
cases, an embittered ex-cop, and a confession from a distraught young girl to
her therapist that begins in January 2005. While Straker builds on his new relationship with his daughter, Annabelle, Melanie Craw--a female detective half in love with a romanticized perception of her father--is finally forced to question the man who has shaped her beliefs, her career, and her family life.
Weaver makes a makes a serpentine story seem more plausible as he threads together the specter of a long-forgotten, empty psychiatric prison off the coast of Devon with the ghosts that perpetually haunt David’s childhood memories. In a denouement that culminates in a bloodbath of ruthlessness and violence, tears and secrets and duplicity are balanced against the shadow of an embattled man who had willingly and lucidly crossed the line into murder.