Susie Steiner’s Missing, Presumed is the first in a new series of mystery novels about Manon Bradshaw, a British detective with wild curls, laser focus and a complete lack of a personal life. I mention the curls not because I think it’s a particularly important character trait, but because it seems to be referenced more than any other identifying characteristic. Manon has trouble sleeping; to soothe herself to sleep she listens to a ‘borrowed’ police radio – not the lullaby of a normal well-adjusted adult. After a particularly disastrous first date, it is this radio Manon is listening to when a call comes in about a high priority missing person. Manon is nearby and answers the call and thus the mystery begins.
Edith Hind, the twenty-something daughter of the physician to the royal family, has disappeared in the middle of the night from the flat she shares with her charming, but boring, boyfriend Will. She has left behind her wallet, keys, phone and favorite coat. It’s two weeks to Christmas, so naturally no one would leave of their own accord without a coat. Manon and her fellow detectives are on the case, desperate to find Edith in that critical first 48 hours after a person’s disappearance. Naturally, as they dig into the case, details of Edith and her family’s personal lives come out and any number of suspects come out of the woodwork.
I rather liked this novel, though it has its flaws. I felt like the mystery wrapped up quite well in the end. While I have no intention of spoiling the ending for others, I will say that I had some suspicions about certain aspects of the resolution. I didn’t know everything by the time of the big reveal, which is nice actually, but I did have some inklings. Each chapter covering one of the central characters is interesting, though I think Manon alone could have carried the book. Miriam, Edith’s mother, I have cast already – Penelope Wilton would be perfect. She’s the aunt in the lesser Pride & Prejudice film, for reference. Manon I couldn’t actually picture, though I can picture the entire novel as either a movie or a Masterpiece Mystery episode. I reference that a lot in my reviews for Cannonball; it’s a compliment, in my view, to be written in a manner that I can see everything play out as I read. Manon’s best friend Briony works really well as a foil and a classic sidekick. The other side characters are fine as well, though Helena Reed is sort of vaguely drawn out for someone so important (Edith’s best friend).
I think the weaknesses of this novel are few. We are given background into Manon’s history to explain why she’s so alone and damaged and focused on work. These reasons seem a bit cliched; cliches become so for a reason I suppose. There are other things that seemed a bit over the top for her especially. She has pinkeye for like a week and doesn’t have the time to pop into a chemists to get antibiotics. That shit hurts. You go to the doctor. I found it a little hard to believe she would forget to go by one on the way home, especially considering one may be featured in news conferences about your celebrity missing person. That and she is estranged from her sister for over three years now just because her sister decided not to hate their stepmother. Manon is 39, in case I failed to mention. She admits to the immmaturity of her anger, and yet doesn’t speak to her sister for three years? She needs some help. Other weaknesses or complaints I can’t really get into without spoilers, so suffice it to say – overall this novel works. It isn’t perfect, but I think any fan of British mysteries would be happy with their choice.