Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
”Misanthrope, staring down the barrel of childlessness. Yawning ability to find fault. Can give off WoD (Whiff of Desperation). A vast, bottomless galaxy of loneliness. Educated: to an intimidating degree. Willing to hide this. Prone to tears. Can be needy. Often found googling ‘having a baby at 40.’
Looking for: book-reading philanthropist with psychotherapy training who can put up shelves. Can wear glasses (relaxed about this).
Dislikes: most of the fucktards I meet on the internet.”
Detective Manon Bradshaw did not post this rather honest dating assessment to her profile. After all, the purpose of a profile is to actually convince men to contact her. No, she cut and pasted another woman’s profile that she thought sounded enticing. She shaved a few years off her age, because she knows very well how desperate being single and 39 sounds to men because it sounds desperate to her, too.
When Cambridge student Edith Hind goes missing, you would think a case of this magnitude would allow Manon to set aside her own problems and throw herself into the task of finding this woman, but the insecurities, the loneliness, bleed into all aspects of her life.
She sometimes bursts into tears for no discernible reason.
The case is odd from the beginning. There is next to nothing to go on. There are no easy to grasp handles, no ready made suspects, and those few peripheral people of interest who can be loosely tied to Edith have iron clad alibis. Her father is a prominent surgeon named Ian Hind. Let me rephrase that her father is Sir Ian Hind and is a doctor for the ROYAL family.
There is always pressure with a case like this. A beautiful, affluent, bright white girl goes missing, and the press is already up everyone’s nostrils for information, but then you add in a prominent family with ties to the Crown, and suddenly everyone has to think about more than just doing their job. They have to think about covering their arses. They have to think about the future of their careers. They have to consider that one misstep might have them brushing up their CVs for a career outside of government work.
A body washes up from the river, a young man, a young black man.
Somehow it seems tied into the disappearance of Edith Hind, but there are too many pieces missing from the puzzle. Drugs would be one angle, but according to everyone who knew her, drugs were not of interest. She did causes, not drugs. She was almost militant about saving the planet and participated in city lot gardens. She grew chard. She beat people over the head with chard. Look at me, I grow Chard! She was a self-serving narcissist.
Spoiled little rich girls have time to fuss around with growing chard in abandoned city lots, but most of the rest of the world has to spend their time worrying about making a living, or if you are a 39 year old police detective, finding yourself a man to make babies with. She finds a man, unexpectedly, the natural way but loses him over a few ill chosen words.
”One minute you are loved, and then you are not.”
We spend most of our time with Manon, but Susie Steiner also devotes chapters to the other characters, the members of the police team, the parents, Edith’s best friend Helena, and her handsome boyfriend Will. We meet Tony Wright, convicted rapist, who is a cool cucumber under interrogation. He knows something; everyone knows something, and slowly, methodically the pieces start to fall into place. This is such an authentic police procedural that I felt like a fledgling recruit for the Cambridgeshire Police Department.
The characters are all fully developed. Within a few chapters, I felt like I knew Manon, that I could pop down the street and take her out for a beer so she could cry on my shoulder about the latest bloke she met online. Edith’s mother Miriam is particularly well drawn.
”He has been crying in his study. She heard him on her way up the stairs an hour ago, had stopped, one hand on the banister, curious to hear his upset expressed. Man sobs are so uncommon, they were quite interesting. His were strangulated, as if his tears were out to choke him. Hers come unbidden, like a flood, dissolving her outline, and it’s as if she has failed to stand up to them. A weakness of tears.”
Miriam feels weak, but she will prove to be strong. ”Fear is physical.”
The depth of the characters is impressive. Steiner reveals their souls and clothes them in truths.
This book transcends genre. To call it a mystery or a detective novel or a thriller is too restrictive. This is a book that will appeal to readers who want more than just a clever plot or a likeable protagonist. This book has those qualities, but also has lyrical, insightful, honest writing that insures that you will be thinking about this book and these people for a long, long time. There is a twist that will knock you on your arse, and then just as you stumble to your feet, the second twist will knock you back down again. It’s ok though because you will probably need a few minutes of staring at the ceiling, letting these revelations unravel what you thought was true and start a new strand of understanding.
The buzz is going to grow as more and more readers discover this book, so put a kettle on, put out a plate of cookies, and let yourself become part of the buzz.
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