After decades of service, Leonard Franks has stepped down from the Metropolitan Police as a high-ranking detective in the Homicide and Serious Crime Command. He and his wife, Ellie, have retired to a farmhouse in the seclusion of the English countryside, far from the clamor of London. Everything goes just as they’ve imagined, until the night Leonard leaves the house to fetch firewood—and never returns.
With the police investigation at a dead end nine months later, Leonard’s daughter, a detective herself, turns in desperation to David Raker, a missing persons investigator with a gift for finding the lost. But nothing can prepare Raker for what he's about to find—or for the devastating secret behind this disappearance. And by the time he realizes what it is, and how deep the lies go, he finds himself in serious danger—along with everyone he cares about.
Raker’s action-packed investigation takes readers on a richly atmospheric thrill ride, from the seedy backstreets of London and the stark quiet of the Devon countryside to the sinister hallways of an abandoned mental institution. In Fall from Grace, Weaver has delivered another sharp, emotionally charged mystery that saves its most startling revelations for the final pages.
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It took them an hour to get to the beach, a small, horseshoe-shaped bay on the southern tip of the county. The father had wanted to get there early, to avoid having to fight for a space in the tiny parking lot, and because someone in their village had told him that there were five spaces-tucked away beneath the slant of a vast, ninety-foot rock face-that stayed in the shade all day. When they arrived and saw there were two spaces still empty, the father drummed out a victory beat on the wheel of the Hillman Avenger and started whistling to himself. His wife, in the passenger seat next to him, broke out into a smile.
"I think we can safely say you're happy."
"Is it too early for an ice cream?"
She rolled her eyes. "We've only just had breakfast."
"That was over an hour ago," he joked, and after he parked and turned off the engine he looked over his shoulder, toward the backseat. His son was up on his knees, fingers pressed to the glass, looking out at the cove.
"What do you think, my boy?"
"Are there rocks to climb here, Dad?"
His father laughed. "Yes, son. There are rocks to climb."
The tide was on its way out, a swath of wrinkled beach left in its wake. Beyond the blanket of sand was water as clear as glass, much of it contained within the gentle arc of the cove, the rest out in the channel, where the boy thought it looked like the world went on forever. Excited now, he helped his dad take two deck chairs and all the food down to the sand, then came back for his bucket and spade, and made a break for the water's edge. Behind him, his mother called after him, telling him not to wander off too far, and he shouted back to her that he wouldn't. As the father set up, the mother continued to watch the boy, a trail of his footprints leading all the way down to the sea.
"He's so grown up now," she said.
"He's only eight, Marie."
"I know." She stopped, watching the boy dipping his toe into the water. "But don't you think the time's going so fast? I mean, it seems like only yesterday the nurses were handing him to me for the first time. Now look at him."
"I know. I don't mean he's not fine. I just mean . . . before we know it, he'll be married, with his own kids. Maybe he won't even stay in this area."
"Of course he will."
"There are no opportunities for him here, Tom."
"What are you talking about? He'll take over the business."
"He says he doesn't want it."
"He's only eight." He came up behind his wife and put his arms around her waist. "He doesn't know what he wants. When I was eight, I wanted to be an astronaut."
"I just don't want him to forget us."
He kissed his wife on the cheek. "He won't forget his old mum."
At the water's edge, the boy turned back to them and waved his mother toward him. "Mum!" the boy shouted. "Mum, come and look at this!"
"See?" the boy's father said. "I told you."
She smiled again, kissed her husband on the cheek and headed down to where her son was standing in a foot of water, pointing to something out beyond the edge of the cove. At first, as she followed his line of sight, she couldn't tell what had got his attention. But then it emerged, on its own out in the channel, like a lonely, drifting ship.
She'd tried to forget how close they were to it here.
"What's the matter, sweetheart?"
But she already knew. The island sat like a fin above the water, a craggy sliver of land a quarter of a mile out to sea, awkward, broken, ominous. Even from this distance, even as light bounced off the water and the sun beat down, there remained something dark about it; all the stories it had to tell, all the memories it wished it could forget.
Instinctively, she put a hand on her son's shoulder.
"What is that place, Mum?" the boy asked.
She looked out across the channel, unsure of how to respond.
"It's . . . It's, uh . . ."
"What?" the boy said. "What is it?"
And then slowly, automatically, she brought him into her, pressing him to her hip, and she said to her son, "It's somewhere bad, sweetheart. It's somewhere very bad."
The address I'd been given overlooked a railway switchyard in Pimlico. Built from London stock brick, the two-story building was a quarter of a mile south of Victoria station, almost on the banks of the Thames. There was no signage on it and its windows were dark, giving the impression it was empty. But it wasn't empty. As I got closer, I could see the hardwood front door had been freshly painted in a muted blue and a security camera was fixed to the wall, its lens focused on the entrance. Embedded in a space next to the door was a number pad with an intercom. I buzzed once and waited.
From where I was standing, the river was mostly obscured by the rusting iron struts of a railway bridge, but in between I could see a slow procession of sightseeing trips carving along the water. This close to Christmas, the vessels all had fairy lights winking in their windows, and some of the tourists—braving the chill of winter—stood on the decks, wearing Santa hats. Otherwise, there seemed a strange kind of hush to the morning, a grayness, like the city had slipped into hibernation.
A couple of seconds later, a ping came from the intercom and the door bumped away from its frame. Inside was a short corridor with a polished oak floor and a big arched window, light bleeding out across the walls and ceiling. Everything was finished in the same neutral off-white color except for two blue doors at the end and a marble counter on the right. Behind it sat a smartly dressed woman in her early twenties.
I nodded. "Was that just a lucky guess?"
She smiled, reached under the counter and brought out a visitors' ledger. "I was told to expect you about this time," she said, and laid a fountain pen on top. "If you can just sign and date it, I'll show you where you need to go."
I signed my name. "It's December 12 today, right?"
"That's right, sir." Once I was done, she gestured toward the first blue door. "Head through there to find our meeting rooms. Yours is Dickens. When you've finished, feel free to use our facilities. We have a bar in the basement and that second door takes you into our restaurant. We serve food between twelve and four, although you'll need to ensure your representative is with you, as we only serve guests when they dine with a member."
"Is there anything else, Mr. Raker?"
"No, I think that's fine."
I headed through the first blue door.
Another corridor revealed eight other doors, four on each side, all closed, all with brass plates. Each was named after a British writer, and Dickens was the fourth down on the left. As I approached, I could hear the hum of conversation in one of the rooms. The others were completely silent. At Dickens, I knocked twice.
The meeting room was small but immaculate: more oak flooring, chocolate-colored walls, a twelve-foot table, and floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over a pristine garden. Above it, I could just make out the railway bridge, but otherwise it was easy to forget that the building was surrounded by industry and roads.
DCI Melanie Craw got up from a seat at the head of the table, a laptop and a closed file in front of her, and came around to greet me. We shook hands, then she pushed the door shut and directed me to the table. I took a seat, removing my jacket.
"Would you like something to drink?" she asked.
"Water would be fine. Thank you."
Craw was in her early forties, slim, with a short, practical haircut, and cool, unreadable eyes. No jewelry except for a wedding band. Never skirts, only trousers, and always the same subdued colors. She was stoic and steady, difficult to break down, but she wasn't unfeeling. She had an understanding of people, of what made them tick. We'd never had a working relationship, just a caustic, often bitter series of confrontations, but I admired her all the same. I couldn't honestly have said if the feeling was mutual.
As she went to a cabinet in the far corner, where a jug of iced water and some glasses were sitting on top, a brief, uncomfortable silence settled between us.
Perhaps it wasn't so surprising. I found missing people for a living, and through my work had come into conflict with Craw when she'd been the SIO on a case that had almost cost me my life. I'd been stabbed in the chest and left to die in the shadows of a cemetery by a man we'd both ended up trying to find. Through luck or fate, or a little of both, I'd been discovered, spent a month strapped to a hospital bed, and the next four recovering at the old place my parents had left me in south Devon.
Afterward, I'd wondered if I ever wanted to return to London.
In the end, I had, not only because the city was where most of my work was, but because, once the physical pain was gone, the only thing I had to face down were the memories of what had happened to me—and those memories were all here. As Melanie Craw handed me a glass of water, I imagined—eighteen months on—that she was different as well. Things had changed for me. It seemed impossible they hadn't changed for her too.
"Thanks for coming," she said. "You found it okay, obviously."
"It looks derelict from the road."
She smiled, sitting down. "I think that's why people like it."
"Are you a member here?"
"Through my husband. These sorts of places . . . I guess it's a male thing. I don't really get it, but it's always made him happy. I find it's useful for meetings like these."
"Meetings like what?"
She nodded. "I wanted to offer you some work." She saw the surprise on my face, nodded again, as if to reassure me, and pushed the file across the table.
I glanced at it, then back at her.
"I want you to find someone."
It was my turn to smile this time. I had a long and illustrious history of making enemies at the Met, Craw among them, not intentionally and not with any sense of enjoyment, but as a by-product of what I did. In the end, I'd accepted it as collateral damage. I didn't do this job to make friends, I did it in order to bring home the missing.
"I can't see the Met signing off on this," I said to her.
"Well, you're right about that."
"So why am I here?"
"This isn't for the Met."
I studied her, instantly suspicious of her intentions. The idea of Craw asking for my help—even as time dulled the memory of our last encounter—seemed utterly perverse; the type of thing she'd have refused to do even if someone had held a gun to her head. But there was no movement in her face. No hint she wasn't serious.
So I opened the file.
A man in his early sixties looked up at me, his picture stapled to the front page of a missing-persons report. He was sitting on the edge of a rock, somewhere on moorland, a vast green valley sweeping into the distance behind him. It looked like the picture had been cropped: along one edge was the outline of a second person; along the bottom of the shot I could make out the curve of a backpack. His name was Leonard Franks.
He'd been missing since March 3.
He was sixty-two, six foot one, had gray hair and blue eyes—but I knew his physical description wouldn't be what got him found now. Once people were removed from their routines, they changed quickly: sometimes because they wanted to, sometimes because it was forced on them. But mostly, this far on, they weren't making any choices at all-because, by now, the majority of missing people were decaying in a hole somewhere, waiting to be found. Even if I gave the families I worked for the benefit of the doubt, and started from the assumption the victim was alive, Franks had been gone for nine months, and after that amount of time, a disappearance was never about the way someone looked. It was about the way they thought. Their exit. Their reasons for going.
Their final destination.
I looked at his address. "He lived in Postbridge?"
"About a mile north of it, yes."
That was right in the heart of Dartmoor, about thirty-five miles north of the village in which I'd grown up. And yet, as I returned to his profile, I saw that he'd been born in London and spent his entire life in the city.
"So he retired to Devon?"
She nodded again. "Two years ago."
I started to leaf through the rest of the file and saw for the first time that he'd been a police officer, retiring at sixty as detective chief superintendent of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command. It was a senior post, and he seemed to have been highly rated. According to the file, he'd put in for retirement at fifty-five, after thirty years of pensionable service, but had been asked by the assistant commissioner to stay on.
"How did he go missing?" I asked.
"He and his wife lived in this place, like an old hunting lodge," Craw said, "and there was a woodshed at the side of the building and another for tools at the back. Not much else apart from that. They were pretty isolated up there. Their nearest neighbors were about a mile away, there was open moorland in all directions, and it was so quiet you could hear a car making an approach five minutes before it even came into view."
She looked across the table at the picture of Franks.
"Anyway, the two of them were sitting in front of the fire in the late afternoon and it started to die out, so she asked him to get some more logs. It was early March, still pretty cold then, especially up on the moors. She went to put the kettle on and cut them both a slice of cake, while he went out to the woodshed. He'd done it a thousand times before; the woodshed was literally at the end of the veranda, less than ten feet from the front door." She stopped, looked at me. "Except this time he never came back."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Leonard and Ellie Franks have decided to retire and move to the moors of Dartmoor. But one night in January Leonard goes to get more wood behind the house and just disappears. David Raker is asked by Melanie Craw, a police officer and daughter to Leonard Franks, to investigate Leonard’s disappearance when the investigation has reached a stand still. But the deeper David digs, the more secrets he finds and learns there was a lot more going on with Leonard. Those secrets are also going to come back to haunt David for stirring them up. I love mysteries that let you try to figure out what is happening. And Fall From Grace is exceptional with all the twists and turns. There is no much happening that I missed a couple of the clues and had no idea what the ending was going to be. This is my first David Raker story but it will not be my last. If you are looking for a great mystery and thriller that will keep you on your toes, look no further. I received Fall From Grace for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.