Books from the Pantry: What Remains by Tim Weaver: reviewed by Inez de Miranda

TW What Remains Cover

I read this for the book club I recently joined. It’s not something I’d have chosen if I’d seen it in a shop or library, but neither is it the kind of thing that would make me recoil in disgust.
What Remains is the sixth novel in a series of crime novels featuring private investigator David Raker. I have never read the previous five books and it’s possible that I would have appreciated this novel more if I had.

The story is set in London and starts on 14 January 2014 when Raker meets up with ex-police officer Colm Healy, who he knows from previous adventures. Raker has been helping Healy, who is in a desperate situation after losing his job, becoming homeless and alienating his ex-wife and children. The trigger for Healy’s demise has been the unsolved case of the murder of a young, single mother (Gail) and her little twin daughters. Healy cannot let go of this case, and is more interested in talking about the murder case with Raker than in sorting out his own life. Healy drags Raker into re-investigating the case.

The main story is told in first person by David Raker, but it’s really Healy’s story. Raker seemed more like a prop than a fully developed character and I found his devotion to Healy over-the-top and implausible. Perhaps if I’d read the previous books in the series and had a little more background on their relationship I would’ve understood it better, but in What Remains it was just weird.

There is a second storyline which occasionally interrupts the main story and is conveniently printed in italics. It describes how a mysterious man lived with Gail, the murder victim, and her daughters in the flat where they died.

What Remains is written in an entertaining and accessible style, but because of its many twists and turns it’s not an uncomplicated read.

Thriller fans will enjoy its many exciting, high-tension scenes, narrow escapes and baffling mysteries. The mysteries intrigued me enough to try to ‘solve’ them while reading the book. The author skilfully guided me into thinking up a totally wrong solution. Once my error became clear, I was astonished. I couldn’t think of any other explanations than the one I’d come up with, and I wondered how the author had managed to mislead me so completely. I was duly impressed and kept reading, desperate to get to the bottom of the mystery – quite like poor old Healy.

*Spoiler alert*
The following paragraphs contains (minor) spoilers, so if you plan to read this novel you might want to skip this part of the review.

The reason I’d missed all the hints and signs that led to the true solution of the mysteries was that they weren’t there. Everything and everyone that had to do with what really happened to Gail and her daughters is only brought up in the last third or so of the book, which annoyed me. It was like reading a list of ingredients for a gooey chocolate cake, and then, when you reckon you’re finally going to read how to prepare that cake with those ingredients, you are told how to steam broccoli instead. My admiration for the author’s skill in misleading his reader evaporated and I became a lot less interested in finding out what had happened. Even more disappointing was the solution of the second mystery (Gail’s boyfriend): This was resolved with the old let-down of ‘It was all a dream’.

*End of spoiler*

I wasn’t incredibly impressed with What Remains but it did keep me moderately entertained throughout.

It reads a bit like an action film, so I think it will appeal to people who like a lot of action and courageous characters who work their way out of various predicaments – and judging from the glowing reviews this novel gets on Amazon and in various newspapers, there are plenty of people like that.

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