Series: DS Manon #2
Published by Random House on July 4, 2017
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Detective Manon Bradshaw is five months pregnant and has officially given up on finding romantic love. Instead, she is in hot-pursuit of work-life balance and parked in a cold case corridor—the price she’s had to pay for a transfer back to Cambridgeshire. This is fine, she tells herself. She can devote herself to bringing up her two children—the new baby, and her adopted 12-year-old son Fly Dent. He needed a fresh start—he was being forever stopped and searched in London by officers who couldn’t see past the color of his skin. Manon feared Fly, increasingly sullen and adolescent, was getting in with the wrong crowd at school, or possibly that he was the wrong crowd. Being there for the children, and home by five, is what Manon tells herself she needs.
Yet when a wealthy victim is found stabbed close to police HQ, she can’t help but sidle in on the briefing: he is a banker from London, worth millions. More dramatically, he was also Manon’s sister Ellie’s ex, and the father of her toddler son. The investigation swirls with greater and greater urgency, and as it begins to circle in on Manon’s home and her family, she finds herself pitted against the former colleagues she once held dear—Davy Walker and Harriet Harper.
Can Manon separate what she feels about the people she loves, from the suspicion hanging over them? Can she interrogate the evidence, just as she would with any other case? And when Manon instructs defence lawyer Mark Talbot to work alongside her, can she refrain from throwing herself at him in a manner unbecoming to a woman at an advanced stage of pregnancy? Manon must fight to find the truth with every fiber of her being.
Persons Unknown started out slow for me. I read the first in the series and knew Manon and Fly and how they can to be a family, but I guess I forgot how unlikeable Manon can be. I do like her, but she will rub just about everyone the wrong way at some point or other, including the reader. And now she’s pregnant, which I’m not sure was the best decision with just recently adopting Fly, but there you have it.
This time around the mystery hits very close to home for Manon. Manon and Fly are sharing a home with Manon’s sister Ellie and her toddler son, Solly, when Solly’s father turns up murdered. Once Fly is accused and sent to juvenile, the story picks up pace. Of course, Fly’s innocent, we know that, but it’s a complicated case, one Manon is not allowed to directly work on. With Davy’s help, she does manage to get the right information to the right people. The dead man was not a nice guy and worked for a financial firm that was not a nice place, so there are several possibilities of who killed him and why. The mystery is well-plotted and I while I wasn’t surprised at the ending, I was a bit disappointed.
While the mystery was clearly foremost in the novel, Steiner does an excellent job with characters. Sometimes characters in mysteries can get run over by the plot, but here most of them are well-developed. They each have their own motives and secrets. The “good guys” sometimes make bad choices and the “bad guys” can sometimes be helpful. People are shades of grey. The characters, including Manon, Davy, convenience store owner Birdies, and prostitute Angel, make this one stand out from a lot of the mysteries out there.
Persons Unknown can be read as a stand-alone, but I think it was helpful to have read Missing, Presumed first since it gives background on Manon and Fly’s relationship and on Manon’s (lack of a) personal life.