So, I’ve just checked the calendar and it appears to be four months until What Remains comes out. (That’s David Raker #6 for those who haven’t read the News section yet.) Four months. To you, that probably seems like a fair way away still.
To me, it’s close enough for mild panic to be setting in.
I’ve literally just signed off on the last but one read-through of the book, and by my count that makes a grand total of fifteen months of work on it so far. It’s been equal parts exciting and daunting, and a long slog at times too, mostly because it’s such a different book to the others. I don’t want to spoil anything (and won’t), but the Raker-Healy cold case combo has presented me with challenges I haven’t experienced before in the series. I mean, I’ve paired Raker with Healy in The Dead Tracks and Vanished, but their partnership (if you can call it that) always orbited a current case, so that immediately makes things easier because there’s already plenty of moving parts. This time, they’re digging up an unsolved murder that has been in the freezer for the best past of four and a half years.
Cold case thrillers aren't a new invention, of course, so it’s not like I’m pioneering some never-attempted sub-genre. But they’re new for me, new for the series, and because I don’t like to do things by halves, and because I like to make life utterly miserable for myself, I’ve attempted to give everything a bit of a twist. So it’s a cold case thriller – but it’s not. By that, I mean it goes in a different direction to where you probably think it will. (Unless you broke into my house and found my highly scientific ‘plan’ for the entire novel – a collection of dusty, curly-edged Post-It notes – and read them all, in which case it’ll go in exactly the direction you expect it to.)
I suppose you could argue that all the missing persons searches are cold cases, because people come to Raker when the police have hit a dead end, but there’s never been such a long gap between the ‘crime’ and Raker stepping up to the plate. That provides unique challenges – the longer a secret stays hidden, the more questions you’ve got to answer as a writer. The more questions you’ve got to answer, the more potential there is for something to slip through the cracks. I don’t think that’s the case with What Remains, having read it (at a rough guess) about fifty-seven million times, but I’m pretty snowblind to the book by now, so in theory there's the potential for this new direction to have thrown some gremlins into the mix. But I'm equal parts confident and terrifyingly uncertain that everything will be okay, and as I've been like that with every book up until now, it's a weirdly quite comforting state to be in.
One thing I really hope the book has is an emotional punch. I definitely think it does. Probably. It’s not going to be like Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, which made Mrs W cry for an entire hour after finishing it (no joke), but it’s a long-in-the-making investigation for Healy, one that essentially ruined his life, and – as you’ll know if you finished Fall from Grace – solving it is the only thing he’s really got left to live for. He’s a sad character anyway (and so is Raker in a lot of ways), and this desperate situation he finds himself in only makes it even sadder. Plus, you don’t have to have been reading the Raker series for long to know that things rarely go to plan for those two.
In essence, then, I’m nervously looking forward to July 16th, and will be talking more about What Remains over the next few months. Oh, and if you fancy reading it before anyone else, you should sign up for my Newsletter. There'll be a competition to grab an early proof copy in the Spring edition, arriving into all good email inboxes (and bad ones) this month. Sales pitch over.
P.S. Since the last blog, I've read:
The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy
This Perfect Day by Ira Levin
The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly
Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan
The Anniversary Man by RJ Ellory
The Martian by Andy Weir
Author of the David Raker novels