Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Missing, Presumed

by Susie Steiner
Random House     2016
368 pages     Mystery

I have to say, right off the bat, that reading a novel with a character named Miriam is remarkable. I frankly can't remember ever reading my name in any book other than the Bible. Thank you Susie Steiner. Additionally, the Miriam character is a loving mother and a strong female caught up in a most difficult situation. Makes me proud.

Edith Hind, the daughter of Miriam and her husband Ian Hind, is missing and Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw is assigned to the case. Edith is a Cambridge graduate student when her boyfriend finds her door open, blood on the kitchen cabinet, and the apartment empty. Days pass, clues come and go, but neither Edith nor her body shows up. A variety of narrators tell the story, including Manon, Miriam, and Davy, a policeman also assigned to the team. During each day of the investigation, each major characters tell the story from his or her point of view, but we also get glimpses into their lives as the day passes.

 Unfortunately for the investigation, the press gets involved because the Hinds are prominent people in suburban London. Dr. Hind is the physician for the royal family. However, nothing is quite as it seems, and tragedy befalls some of the characters as the days and weeks go on with no sightings of Edith. The press searches for every little bit of information, and when it is leaked that Edith's best friend, Helena, may also be her lover, the press goes wild. 

The beauty of Missing, Presumed is in the character development. Manon, the lead inspector, is 39 years old, and absolutely desperate to be in a relationship. She belongs to dating websites and ends up having one lousy date after another, which provides fodder for gossip at the office. Although we don't meet Edith, we are drawn to her as well. She is a very complicated young woman, and we learn a great deal about her from her mother, her boyfriend, and her best friend. Even minor characters have enough of a presence that you remember who they are and what they do. They are each skillfully drawn with a touch of humor, so you enjoy reading their perspectives and the narration of their experience as the days pass. 

Often times in a police procedural mystery, the characters are robotic in nature, and the reader focuses more on the plot than on the characters. It is a joy to relate to police officers who are quirky, conflicted, and lovable. After one of her disastrous relationship ends, Davy says to Manon:
"I think you need a dog."
"I heard a dog makes unhappy people happy. They're good, y'know, for people who can't form proper relationships."
"You're a real tonic, Davy." 

Steiner is a former journalist, and her depiction of the intrusion of the press in the lives of the family and others involved in the case is quite scathing. The review of Missing, Presumed in the Guardian says "Steiner paints well the claustrophobically dangerous effect a circling press can have." In the end it is Miriam who solves the mystery of the disappearance, and the way in which she handles the life-changing conclusion is what can well be expected from a woman named Miriam.

A wonderful read. I hope Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw finds several more cases to solve.

Susie Steiner's website.

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