Sunday 21 February 2016

Reviewed: Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing, Presumed will be published by Borough Press on February 25, 2016.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Missing, Presumed is a credible crime novel – detailed, interesting and very gripping. When post-grad student Edith Hind goes missing, the lives of everyone around her changes. With blood on the floor, the door wide open, no coat, keys or phone taken, DS Manon Bradshaw and her team’s role is set up: 72 hours to find the missing person before it turns into a murder investigation.

Though this book isn’t extremely fast-paced and isn’t going to shock you with the hugest twists, there’s something about it that made for really addictive and absorbing reading. I think that was, for me, its honesty, the realism and how the story wasn’t made to be simply about the mystery and its resolution, it was about people and their representations. Characters were what controlled the story.

The mystery of Edith’s disappearance was fascinating. She had links to so many other characters that I found it impossible to reach the bottom of what had happened to her. From her parents and brother to her boyfriend, to friends, acquaintances and even lecturers, Susie cleverly wrote this book so we could really see from every angle the impression Edith had on several characters. That did mean that there were many characters who the story kept returning to but it was never difficult to keep up. Each one added something to the investigation, even if it was to lure you off track, and I truly loved how everything unfolded.

With each piece of new information, as the reader, my mind was set to take it in and try and slot it into the investigation, piece it all together and work out the truth. (I failed). That’s one of the reasons the narrative was so addictive for me because I kept on craving one more finding, something new to turn the investigation on its head and have me wondering what could possibly be revealed next. Some twists were more shocking than others, some were expected, others were surprising but each one contributed to what was an intriguing and highly captivating crime novel.

One of my favourite aspects to Missing, Presumed was its authenticity. From the successes and cock-ups of the investigation, to the moments where suspects led the case off-track and the twists which put it right back on-track, from the dynamics between the team investigating and from the inclusion of the press and their involvement and interest in a juicy crime, everything appeared true to what you would expect from something similar in real life. That made me engage in the novel more because nothing felt ridiculous or hard to buy into. I definitely did buy into the case which is why I stayed up more than half the night reading it because I had to know.

As with a typical crime novel, chapters related to DS Manon Bradshaw and DC Davy’s lives are interspersed throughout the book. Initially, they didn’t interest me hugely and if I’m honest, though I didn’t dislike him, no part of Davy’s chapters did I really care for. Manon had a bit of a different effect as I was so fascinated by her quirks and strange character and grew to like her character more the further I got into the book. She was very human with her stubbornness and “front” and underlying emotion. Her online dating struggles added some dark humour to the story, as did her interaction with almost everyone – colleagues, suspects, dates… Come the end, I was definitely a big fan of Manon!

Susie’s writing possesses a powerful observation of her characters and how they are represented by society and the press, how they are built up and broken down, judged for their accents, interests and just about everything else. Some chapters did feel occasionally repetitive but then I think at the same time, they were vital to building up each character profile. I knew in-depth so much about a variety of characters and though that might have turned Missing, Presumed into more of a slow-burner, at the same time it made the mystery all the more engaging because I felt like I really knew these characters and therefore became more interested in uncovering the truth.

Gritty and thought-provoking, Missing, Presumed is one of the better crime novels I’ve read recently and I definitely hope to see more from the author in future, because her style of writing had me fully engrossed and a bit like I’d lost a limb when it was over and I had to put the book down!

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