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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
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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.

 

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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Thursday’s Tale: Disney Manga: Tangled

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Thursday’s Tale: Disney Manga: Tangled Tangled by Shiori Kanaki
Series: Disney Manga
Published by TokyoPop on August 15th 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fairy tale, Manga, Middle School
Pages: 176
Format: eARC
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Inspired by the hit Disney movie, Tangled. Rapunzel has lived inside an isolated tower all her life, able to see the world outside her window but forbidden to leave. When the notorious thief Flynn Rider shows up, she makes a deal with him to finally break free and experience the world outside her prison. Is the world as scary as Mother Gothel promised it would be? Or will she find the answers behind her magical, flowing hair and the truth about her childhood? This magical adaptation retells the hit Disney movie using beautiful manga artwork.

The story is the same as the Tangled movie from 2010. It’s a re-imagining of Rapunzel, but the only thing it really has in common with the original fairy tale is the girl with long hair kept in a tower.

The princess, Rapunzel, is stolen from her crib by Mother Gothel, because her can magically heal people.  Mother Gothel hides Rapunzel in the tower, forbidding her to ever leave it, keeping the precious hair safe. While Gothel is away getting a present for Rapunzel’s 18th birthday, Flynn Ryder ends up in the tower as he’s on the run from the palace guards. Rapunzel recognizes her chance and convinces Ryder, with the help of a frying pan, to take her to see the annual lights festival. Adventure, danger, love and the requisite happy ever after ending all follow.

The story is what it is, it’s Tangled re-done as a manga. I thought the manga art was well-done and I’m sure middle schoolers would like it.  I personally appreciated the “how to read a manga” at the beginning. I don’t read many, although Amber does, so it never hurts to be reminded the differences between reading a manga versus a graphic novel.

The stories cute and fun. In all honesty though, I miss the colors, the glowing of the lanterns especially.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

The Freedom Broker by K. J. Howe

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The Freedom Broker by K. J. Howe The Freedom Broker by K.J. Howe
Series: Thea Paris #1
Published by Quercus on February 7, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
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Kidnap negotiator Thea Paris has spent her entire life with survivor's guilt, following an unspeakable childhood tragedy. At eight years old, she watched, frozen in fear, as her twelve-year-old brother, Nikos, was abducted from their home in Kanzi, Africa. Although he was recovered nine months later, he was never the same after that; worse, Thea discovers that she was supposed to have been the target.

This defining experience drives Thea to become one of the top operatives in the field of kidnap-and-ransom consultancy. Nicknamed "Liberata" because she once secured the release of a captive from the Sicilian mob without her client paying a cent, she travels the globe trying to bring hostages home--mostly through negotiation, but occasionally through more forceful means. She is very good at her job.

Twenty years after her brother's abduction, Thea's worst nightmare is revisited when her father, oil magnate Christos Paris, is taken on his sixtieth birthday. He disappears from his yacht while it is moored at Santorini, the ship's whole crew slaughtered mercilessly.


Thea immediately calls in her team at Quantum Security International, premier K&R specialists. Following protocol, they break down Christos' life, looking for leads, but the list of enemies and business competitors is endless. Not surprisingly, Christos Paris has imprinted his designer shoe on innumerable backs during his journey to the top of the oil business. And he was abducted only a few days before the biggest deal of his career.

From there, the case only gets stranger. Unlike most abductions, there are no ransom demands, no political appeals, no prisoner release requests. Instead, the kidnapper sends foreboding quotes in Latin by text from burner phones. What does the kidnapper want?

And most importantly for Thea, will she be able to prevent a second kidnapping from destroying her family for good?

I have to admit, I really enjoyed this action adventure/mystery novel. Thea’s job is get back people who have been kidnapped, whether through negotiation or rescue operations, and she’s good at it. So when her father is kidnapped she can’t trust anyone but her team to get him back. Of course, it’s not simple. We’ve got arms dealers and African politicians and oil magnates all vying for power, with her father smack dab in the middle of it. And we’ve got a love interest for Thea. It’s got a lot going on, but exciting and fast-paced.

Thea’s a great character, smart, tough, and skilled. She’s also a bit blinded by her feelings toward her family. This is one of those instances where the reader knows a lot more about what’s going on than the protagonist, but even at that there are a few surprising twists.

The author has clearly done her research into kidnappings and hostage situations. I also appreciated that Thea is a diabetic. It’s not often that we see women in fiction checking their blood sugar levels before jumping out of airplanes or worrying about whether her insulin will stay cool enough in the heat of the desert. Being diabetic doesn’t hamper Thea, it just means she has to be even more prepared.

Over all, a great start to a series. I’m looking forward to reading more, hopefully with a little less focus on crazy family drama.

About K.J. Howe

Kimberley Howe is the Executive Director of ThrillerFest. Thrillerfest is a conference of International Thriller Writers held every July in New York City. She is also a former medical, health, and fitness writer, as well as, a world traveler, cyclist, swimmer and tennis player.

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