Listening in on the police scanner is somewhat of an unhealthy addiction for DS Manon Bradshaw. Trying to resettle herself following another in a long line of disastrous internet dates, she gets wind of a case just a short distance away from her home. A young man has returned home from a weekend away to find his front door open, the house in a mess and blood in the kitchen – with no trace of his girlfriend anywhere. What, or who, could possibly convince a young woman to leave her home in the dead of a winter’s night leaving all of her belongings, including her coat, behind?
Quick to join her boss at the scene, DI Harriet Harper at the scene, Manon knows this will be a big case, if only because the potential victim, Edith Hinds, has a father with a lot of influential friends including politicians and royalty. As the team begin to investigate it becomes clear that this case will be far from straightforward. The relationship between Edith and her boyfriend doesn’t appear to be as perfect as he might have the police believe and he has a dubious alibi which is proving hard to trace. The last person to see Edith is her best friend, Helena, who seems very nervous and reticent to tell the police everything she knows about Edith. And there are questions to be asked of a lecturer who seems to pay a little too much attention to his students and of who owns a pre-paid mobile phone that Edith had called several times before her disappearance, that the police now cannot trace.
The boyfriend, the best friend, the teacher, the unknown. So many suspects but very few solid leads. The first seventy-two hours following a disappearance are critical and with time racing by with no new evidence coming to light, the team know they are going to face increasing pressure from the family and the press to find Edith. As a body is discovered, everybody fears the worst. No matter what, nobody can possibly have foretold the devastating and life changing consequences this investigation is about to have upon all of those who touch it.
For me ‘Missing Presumed’ was a very interesting story and not necessarily because of the plot or because of a rising tension surrounding the missing person investigation. I would have to be truthful and admit that there weren’t any edge of the seat revelations or moments of shock where I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was a lot subtler than that. This felt more like a look at the people behind the investigation, into the minds of the police and the family and friends as they flitted around the heart and the periphery of the case; a rogues gallery of police and civilian support officers who make up the team. In fact, whilst the hours or days were counted down, I didn’t really get a sense of overwhelming urgency. This was more in keeping with the true pace and frustration of an investigation with little or no evidence. This didn’t detract from my enjoyment in any way. If anything it fed my interest more.
There were few big shock revealing moments. There didn’t need to be. Watching the investigation from the different points of view, predominantly that of Manon, her colleague, Davy, Edith’s mother, Miriam and her friend Helena, gave me a varied perspective of how this kind of investigation touches and affects those who are involved with it. And they are four very diverse characters. Manon, a cynical Detective Sergeant who is a slave to her need to find the perfect partner. Davy, a seemingly eternal optimist who starts to feel the strain of his relationship and their inability to find Edith. Miriam, so deeply affected by her daughter’s disappearance and who offers a very different view of Edith to that shared by those around her. And Helena, a troubled and insecure young woman for whom the revelations of the investigation have life changing consequences.
There is a good amount of humour in the novel, provided in the main by Manon’s inability to control her thoughts when drinking, and her gung-ho approach to relationships. When she meets Alan at a crime scene, there is clear chemistry and while she is apprehensive about seeing him, when she final gives in, she goes all in, her messages ranging from obsessively romantic after her first night with Mr Prendergasp, to full on mental when he calls time on their relationship. Her interactions with boss Harriet and young Davy are at times touching and at others chucklesome.
Manon is the central character in this story, and rather an engaging one at that. Endearingly human and very believable, the image of the nearly forty-year-old singleton extremely well observed. Her relationship with Fly is very touching and adds a touch of humanity to her character, but her flaws are very much on display making her a very easy character to get to know and to like.
I’m not sure how I would really classify this novel. It is a mystery for sure, although the one that gets answered in the end, if perhaps not what was expected in the first place. There are a number of threads in this story, all neatly pulled together in the end. If this had simply been a missing person investigation, then the ending may have been a let-down, but it was much more than that and kept me engaged and invested throughout, as much for the characterisations as for any feelings for the victim who, quite honestly, came across as a bit of a self-centred idiot.
A very satisfied 4 stars. I look forward to reading more about DS Manon as the series grows.
My thanks to Net Galley and publishers Harper Collins UK for the copy of ‘Missing Presumed’ by Susie Steiner in exchange for my review.
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