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Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

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Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner
Series: DS Manon #2
Published by Random House on July 4, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Buy on Amazon or Audible
Add on Goodreads

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.

 

About Susie Steiner

Susie Steiner is a novelist and freelance journalist. She was a staff writer and editor on the Guardian for 11 years, specializing in lifestyle features. Her first novel was published by Faber & Faber in 2013. Her DS Manon series is published by Random House.
She lives with her husband and two sons in north London.

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Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

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Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
Series: DS Manon #1
Published by Random House on June 28, 2016
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Buy on Amazon or Audible
Add on Goodreads

At thirty-nine, Manon Bradshaw is a devoted and respected member of the Cambridgeshire police force, and though she loves her job, what she longs for is a personal life. Single and distant from her family, she wants a husband and children of her own. One night, after yet another disastrous Internet date, she turns on her police radio to help herself fall asleep—and receives an alert that sends her to a puzzling crime scene.

Edith Hind—a beautiful graduate student at Cambridge University and daughter of the surgeon to the Royal Family—has been reported missing for nearly twenty-four hours. Her home offers few clues: a smattering of blood in the kitchen, her keys and phone left behind, the front door ajar but showing no signs of forced entry. Manon instantly knows this case will be big—and that every second is crucial to finding Edith alive.

The investigation starts with Edith’s loved ones: her attentive boyfriend, her reserved best friend, and her patrician parents. As the search widens and press coverage reaches a frenzied pitch, secrets begin to emerge about Edith’s tangled love life and her erratic behavior leading up to her disappearance. With no clear leads, Manon summons every last bit of her skill and intuition to close the case, and what she discovers will have shocking consequences not just for Edith’s family, but for Manon herself.

I picked up Missing, Presumed because a.) I enjoy mysteries and b.) the blurb sounded interesting. I was expecting the standard police procedural, but what I got was more about the characters than the plot. I thought it was excellent, but if you’re looking for a standard formulaic mystery, this isn’t it. If you care about the people involved, about their flaws and strengths, their disillusionments and personal struggles, pick it up. It’s more a general fiction than mystery to me, if that makes sense. It’s not a puzzle with a neat set of clues and a clever wrap-up. Don’t get me wrong, I love those too, but this one is less linear, slower pace with lots of side-tracking.

Although Edith is the missing, presumed dead woman, Manon is the star, but she’s complicated. In hindsight, she may have a few too many issues, but while reading the book I loved her. She’s tough and smart, but lonely and needy. She’s probably ambitious, but also self-sabotaging. I was happy to read this little bit on the author’s website: ” I worked closely with Cambridgeshire police during the writing of this and the next Manon book.” That means we get to see her again!

All the characters are well-done, good and bad. They’re all human and various shades of grey. They get angry and hurt, hide secrets, try to do the best they can. The narrative switches viewpoints fairly often. We mostly see things from Manon’s perspective, but also Miriam’s, the missing woman’s mother, Davy, a cop who is really a good guy, and others. They all struck me in different ways, you sympathize with them, sometimes wonder why they do what they do – but I wonder that about non-fictional people too.

As far as the mystery itself goes, the clues are there, but so are false leads and misplaced trust, and misplaced distrust for that matter. It felt like I imagine a real missing person case would. A media hoopla followed by a slow fizzle, too many leads none of which seem to be going anywhere, searches leading to nothing, plenty of suspects but nothing solid. It’s a high-profile case, so the officers are under extra pressure.

The ending was satisfying – both the conclusion of the case and where Manon, and Davy, end up at the end of the novel. It’s really a solid literary mystery. I definitely recommend it and am looking forward to the author’s next novel. I only gave it 4 1/2 stars not 5 because it was missing that something that makes a book unputdownable. I can’t say what that magic spark is and it probably varies from story to story, but I’m betting Steiner’s next one has it.

About Susie Steiner

Susie Steiner is a novelist and freelance journalist. She was a staff writer and editor on the Guardian for 11 years, specializing in lifestyle features. Her first novel was published by Faber & Faber in 2013. Her DS Manon series is published by Random House.
She lives with her husband and two sons in north London.

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