Having read and enjoyed Susie Steiner’s debut novel Homecoming, I was excited to read her second, Missing, Presumed, and the first in a new crime series introducing police detective Manon Bradshaw.
Mid-December, and Cambridgeshire is blanketed with snow. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date – the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace.
Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman – door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor. Manon knows the first 72 hours are critical: you find her, or you look for a body. And as soon as she sees a picture of Edith Hind, a Cambridge post-graduate from a well-connected family, she knows this case will be big.
Is Edith alive or dead? Was her ‘complex love life’ at the heart of her disappearance, as a senior officer tells the increasingly hungry press? And when a body is found, is it the end or only the beginning?
I defy anyone not to completely fall for Manon Bradshaw. She’s brilliant. It’s such a shame she’s not real. Although she certainly feels real enough on the pages of Missing, Presumed. She’s frank and ballsy, brusque but vulnerable, clumsy yet perceptive. She finds it hard to leave her job behind at the end of a shift and falls asleep to the police radio on low volume. She’s refreshingly independent while also putting herself out there on a string of disastrous Internet dates; she wants some kind of social life leading to a home life but in the meantime doesn’t see why she needs to contemplate living like a nun.
Just as she does with Manon Bradshaw’s character, Susie Steiner builds a credible team around her, peopled not by stereotypes but those who are more like flawed and realistic human beings. One of the joys of this book is seeing the way that this team of officers is built up, where its strengths and potential weaknesses lie, and it’s a bit of a blow to discover that Manon’s plans might soon see her moving on to a new force. I’d got to know this one, and would be upset not to have at least some of them in any sequel.
While Manon Bradshaw’s team comes together, the family at the centre of their investigation is falling apart after Edith Hind, the daughter, goes missing. It’s fascinating seeing how each family member behaves under the pressure of their daughter’s disappearance and what that might mean for her but also to them, in terms of loss and exposure to public and press scrutiny. You sense there are secrets here waiting to be unearthed which might be more damaging than anything Edith is caught up in.
As it turns out, there’s an interesting range of current issues dealt with in Missing, Presumed, giving the novel real pertinence and an authentic contemporary feel. And we get to see the police in their public roles and during what little private lives they have during a time-sensitive investigation, which is one of my favourite aspects of the novel and one which I hope Susie Steiner continues through any subsequent novels in the proposed series. We see them out in the field and back at the station, juggling the pressures of the clock ticking on the case, budgets, manpower, long hours and tiredness and few leads or unhelpful witnesses. But we also see them when they are trying to gain a degree of normality in their lives and have a relationship, a family or, as in Manon’s case, start down that path. And this is what rounds out Missing, Presumed and makes it such an interesting first outing for Manon Bradshaw in this series. This is a promising start to a great literary crime series with a difference and I can’t wait to read what comes next.
Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner is published by Borough Press, a Harper Collins imprint. It is available as an audiobook and ebook and in hardback and paperback. You can find it at Amazon UK, Audible UK, Foyles, Hive (supporting your local independent bookshop), Waterstones and Wordery. For more on Susie Steiner, visit her Author Website or find her on Twitter.
My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.