I'm not sure if it's simply down to a post-Christmas rush, or whether a hypnotist is out there on a street corner somewhere directing people this way (and if they are, God bless 'em), but there's been, quite literally, hundreds and hundreds of brand new sign-up's to this newsletter since 1 January, which is lovely. Welcome aboard to everyone who's experiencing the ups, downs and fair-to-middlings of this page for the very first time, and of course to everyone who has been here for a while. It's hard to underline quite how rub-my-eyes, pinch-myself amazing I still find the idea of people not just buying my books, but actually, genuinely enjoying them, so I know I always say this, but it's only because it's true: without your support, this series would still most likely be an idea I had scribbled on the back of a napkin. Thank you again for buying the books and helping to spread the word about Raker.
If this is your first time here, you've arrived at the perfect moment because this is an unusual and really rather special newsletter. Instead of loading you up with all the regular-shaped info, this Spring missive is, instead, entirely dedicated to only one thing: David Raker #8. And not just vague, round-the-houses details about it either. Below, you'll find title, synopsis, the entire first chapter, and a release date.
Except for the discussions that my editor, agent and I have had about it, and some meetings I've had up at Penguin, this is pretty much the maiden voyage for all of this stuff, except for that tiny taster I put in the Christmas newsletter. So, as you can probably imagine, I'm excited and a little nervous to finally see a year's worth of work emerging from cover, but really pleased that I get to do it first right here.
Remember, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, or you can always drop me an email. Or you can do none of those and just keep scrolling down to read the first chapter from David Raker #8. I won't hold it against you.
The church was on the coast, three miles out of Christchurch, perched on the edge of a limestone bluff like a limpet clinging to a rock.
I pulled up outside and turned the engine off.
The wind and the rain shifted the Audi on its axle, the skies slate-grey, the sea fierce and choppy. Across the water, lost in a fine gossamer mist, the Needles drifted in and out of view like rudderless ships. As I grabbed my notepad from the back seat, I remembered the time my wife and I had taken the ferry across to the Isle of Wight, bumping across the Channel in a winter storm, and felt a twinge of regret that it could only ever be a memory.
The door to the church was open.
I locked the car and headed inside and found ten wooden benches, a stone altar at the front, and a stained glass window above that. The image in the glass leaked a coloured reflection all across the nave. Against the cracks in the stone floor, a scene from the Last Supper moved like a puddle of oily water.
He was sitting in the second row on the left, his body pressed tightly against the end of the pew, his hands loosely together on the bench in front, as if he were about to say a prayer, or had just finished one. He wore a blue raincoat and grey beanie, and I could see one of his boots, poking out from under the bench. It was spattered in mud; badly scuffed.
I was almost level with him by the time he seemed to realise I’d arrived. He turned on the pew, dropped his hands to his lap, and shifted around to look at me with an expression halfway between worry and relief.
‘Mr Kite?’ I said.
‘Yes.’ He got to his feet. ‘Yes, that’s me.’
‘I’m David Raker.’
We shook hands. They were small, just like him, and bone dry. I could feel scratch marks on his fingertips – cuts, maybe, or callouses – and there were marks on his face too: new scars, the biggest in a fat arc from his chin to his lip.
‘Thank you for coming, Mr Raker.’
‘David’s fine,’ I said. ‘Sorry I’m a bit late. I know we said ten o’clock.’
I looked back up to the window, to the vaulted ceiling. ‘I’ve worked a lot of cases, but I can’t remember any of them starting inside a church.’
He smiled briefly. ‘Do they ever end up here?’
I studied him, his eyes shifting from me, along the nave, to the front of the church. Two wooden funeral biers – the stands upon which a coffin was placed – had been collapsed and were leaning against the wall. His gaze lingered on them, one side of his face flickering with the colour from the stained glass window.
I replied, ‘I try to avoid that happening if I can.’
He attempted another smile, but it got lost halfway to being formed, and it made me think he’d probably glimpsed the truth already: that I could only try to affect a person’s fate once I knew they were alive. When someone was already dead, and all you were returning to the families was bones and earth, it became a different job. You became a sort of artist, painting a picture of motivation and reason; someone who constructed narratives from the things people left behind.
'You didn’t say much on the phone, Mr Kite.’
‘Richard,’ he said quietly. ‘I know I didn’t say much. I’m sorry. I don’t like talking about this sort of thing over the phone. I’m not good on phones. I prefer talking to face-to-face.’
‘Okay,’ I said, and watched him for a moment.
He looked sad, weighed down, a man who had lost something important. That wasn’t unusual. In my line of work, I saw that all the time. But there was something else, hidden behind his anguish. He seemed confused somehow, as if uncertain of himself, the expression strangely out of place on a guy who didn’t look older than thirty-five. He forced a smile again, seemingly aware of it, but it didn’t go away. It was anchored in his eyes, in the crescent of his mouth, and it had spread and thrived like the roots of a weed. I’d tried to find evidence of him online after his call, of a life lived out in social media like everyone else his age. But there was nothing. I couldn’t find any trace of Richard Kite anywhere.
‘I work here on a Tuesday,’ he said, gesturing to his surroundings. ‘I help the vicar keep the garden up together – the grounds, that sort of thing. I’m not a gardener, really, but I do my best.’ He stopped, his eyes back on the funeral biers. ‘Anyway, Reverend Parsons said we could use the room at the back – if you wanted.’
There was an open door at the rear of the church, showing through to a short corridor. A yellow bucket was on the floor halfway down, catching a leak.
‘I’m happy to talk,’ I said to him, ‘but maybe you should just tell me who it is you want me to find first.’
‘Yes, of course.’
He held up an apologetic hand but didn’t continue. He looked away again instead, searching the shadows for the words he wanted, his face thin and pale, black stubble lining his jaw, his eyes oddly colourless. And as he did, something struck me: I’ve seen him before. I know him from somewhere.
Had the two of us met at some point?
‘I called you,’ he said, ‘because I know that you find missing people. That’s what you do, and that’s… well, that’s what I need.’ He stopped, swallowed hard. ‘Someone’s missing, and I need you to find them, David.’
‘So who is it that’s missing?’
I was still thrown by the familiarity I felt. As I waited, I tried to wheel back, to figure out where our paths might have crossed, but I couldn’t think. If I’d met him, it wasn’t on any case.
‘Richard,’ I said again, ‘who is it that’s missing?’
At first it was like he hadn’t heard me, his eyes still probing the corners of the church where the light from the window didn’t reach. But then, just as I was about to repeat myself a third time, he turned to face me.
‘I am,’ he said.
I frowned. ‘You are what?’
‘I’m the person that’s missing.’
David Raker #8 is called I AM MISSING
What is I AM MISSING about?
A man wakes up on the edge of a river, bruised and bloodied, with no memory of who he is, what he's called, or where he's come from. He gives himself the name Richard Kite. He can't remember his real name, his family, his friends, what he did for a living, or where he grew up. He seems to be good swimmer, he knows how to drive, and he recalls the introduction to a children's TV show. He also has a vague memory of looking out of a window as a kid and seeing a beach. But that's it. That's the entirety of what he knows about himself. Despite press conferences, extensive media coverage and a police investigation, almost a year has passed and not a single person has come forward claiming to know who Richard is.
So he asks David Raker to help him?
Yes. But as fascinated as Raker is by Richard's case, and as keen as he is to help, he's uneasy about it too, not least because it's a complete inversion of a normal missing persons case. There's no family to interview, he has no clue where Richard worked, or what he did, where he's from, or how he ended up on the edge of the river. All the pillars on which Raker builds a missing persons search are gone.
Are you suggesting this will be the one that finally finishes Raker off?
No. Yes. Maybe. Let's just put it this way: it's completely unlike any search he's ever taken on and, because of that, the book is unlike any of the others in the series.
When's it out?
At the moment, it's pencilled in for Thursday 27 July. The David Raker #8 page on Amazon should be updated inside the next month with the title and the cover (the image above isn't the cover –– it's just a snazzy bit of marketing) and then you'll be able to click 'Pre-order' and sit back and relax. If you prefer to get your books in a real-life, bricks-and-mortar store, head in and ask them to stick your name down for I AM MISSING (aka David Raker #8) and give them the release date.
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