Missing, Presumed | Susie Steiner | 2016 | The Borough Press | 416p | Review copy | Buy the book
When Edith Hunt’s boyfriend returns home after a weekend away, he finds the front door open, coats on the floor and a trail of blood in the kitchen. Edith is gone, her keys and phone left behind. Edith had spent the evening before out on the town with her best friend Helena, who had escorted Edith safely home afterwards. This beautiful, popular Cambridge postgraduate fellow appears to have vanished into thin air but someone somewhere knows what has happened. A massive police hunt ensues – Edith’s father, the surgeon Sir Ian Hind, is a powerful man with the ear of the Home Secretary – but time is running out for Edith Hunt.
The case is assigned to DS Manon Bradshaw and her partner Davy Walker and it’s no enviable task. The pressure from Sir Ian, the media and the powers that be make failure not an option but where to turn when all the leads run cold?
Missing, Presumed is not your usual missing girl mystery. This novel depicts the investigation as a reader would expect, with both its successes and failures, but it is much more about how the disappearance alters the lives of the people who love her and those who hunt for her. The narrative moves between the main characters, focusing in particular on Manon, Davy, Lady Miriam Hind (Edith’s mother), and the best friend Helena. But there are others, too – Edith’s brother, father, boyfriend and so on, there is quite a cast list – and all of them are given a voice. Edith’s absence is keenly felt by those who love her and it is a source of immense frustration to Manon and Davy as well as to the other people in the police investigative team that expands and contracts as time passes and clues come and go.
Manon especially lets us deep into her life and, as she struggles through a succession of blind dates (far more entertaining for us than for her), it’s impossible not to warm to her. Manon is such a likeable, humorous and warm woman, easily distracted, deeply worried about Edith and so full of love while still being humanly grumpy. Manon’s fate is as much our concern as Edith’s, if not more so. Likewise, other characters fill us in on their lives, loves and disappointments and hopes, as we follow them at work and at home. With Lady Miriam and Helena, however, all is very different. From these two we feel keenly the pain of losing someone loved very much and the frustration of watching days pass with no answers.
Missing, Presumed is a clever, beautifully written and emotionally involving read. Susie Steiner takes her time, making sure we know the characters inside out. I did have slight issues with the pacing – this is a long novel and it moves very slowly at times. Also, while I grew very fond of Manon, the same couldn’t be said of Edith and I wasn’t entirely satisfied by the way that her story developed. Nevertheless, the mystery itself had some intriguing twists, demonstrating that no matter how well you think you know someone, sometimes you’ll discover you hardly know them at all.
I’m delighted to post this review as part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of Missing, Presumed on 25 February. For other stops on the tour, please see the poster below.