Series: DS Manon #1
Published by Random House on June 28, 2016
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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.