“This combination of police procedural and an unfolding family drama that continuously twists and turns will work well for fans of Kate Atkinson and Tana French.”—Booklist
I couldn’t agree more!
What a pleasant surprise this crime novel turned out to be. Fortunately I’ve read many good books this year so far – and this one reminded me how much I enjoy a well-rendered, character-driven police procedural.
As one would expect, the novel is centered around a missing persons case. When weeks go by without sign of the missing woman it is presumed she is the victim of a homicide. Told by various persons and points of view, the story gives a well-rounded account of the case.
And the police… I LOVED the police in this one! Central to the story is single, thirty-nine year old Manon Bradshaw. I loved the bones of her. So human, so flawed, yet all the more likable because of it. She is a Detective Sergeant on the Major Incident Team for the Cambridgeshire Police. Manon is oh – SO – very – lonely. Driven by work, she feels as though life is passing her by and her biological clock is ticking louder every day. She has tried Internet dating with some astounding failures. Generally dissatisfied with life, and acting increasingly desperate, she fears a ‘relationship’ is just not on the cards for her…
Manon lost her mother when she was just fourteen years old, so she and her sister were raised by her father. When he remarried, Manon has distanced herself from him and his new wife. When her sister accepts this new woman, Manon considers this as a betrayal and thus she is estranged from her sister as well. With no family directly a part of her life, her loneliness has driven her to leave her police radio on at night in order to fall asleep…
And then there is Police Constable Davy Walker, Manon’s junior. Davy’s cup is always half full and he is in a committed relationship. As such he is a perfect foil for the pessimistic and solitary Manon whom he thinks very highly of. Davy spends his free hours at a youth center with the foster children who abide there.
Also there is Manon and Davy’s boss, Detective Inspector Harriet Harper. Harriet reminded me a little of the character of Gill in Scott & Bailey. In fact the whole book reminded me of Scott & Bailey (with Manon Bradshaw instead of Rachel Bailey).
The missing woman, Edith Hand, is a Cambridge University student and the daughter of two esteemed physicians. When she is reported missing the case is given ‘high’ priority due to her family’s lofty connections. Her apartment in Huntington has yielded traces of blood and some things in disarray leading the police to fear the worst. As the case drags on into weeks, Edith’s life is inspected with a fine tooth comb, and like many she has some salacious secrets she would rather not broadcast publicly. But in a case like this privacy is not something the police can afford to grant. With little to go on there are few persons of interest and those include Edith’s ultra-handsome boyfriend and her best friend, Helena.
Various chapters are told from the point of view of Edith’s mother, Miriam Hand. A physician herself, she still lives in the shadow of her more famous husband, Sir Ian Hand, physician to the royal family. The disappearance of her beloved daughter and its affect on her is at times, heartbreakingly rendered.
The action of the novel takes place in the weeks leading up to and following Christmas. A time of year that sometimes creates unbearable stresses for both the lonely and those surrounded by family. Also, it is a time of year when police staffing is skeletal due to many having saved their vacation leave for the festive season. Due to this skeletal staffing issue, Manon and her team are given another case in addition to Edith Hand’s disappearance. The body of a young mixed-race teenager has been found floating in the nearby river. It is through this case that Manon meets this boy’s younger brother who will come to have a huge impact on Manon’s own life.
“Missing, Presumed” is a novel about the myriad permutations of ‘family’. A book about parenthood, loneliness, desperation, and shame. Part crime/mystery novel, part psychological study, the book fairly screams for a sequel and the author has stated that another novel featuring Manon Bradshaw is in the works.
This crime novel, with its intriguing missing person’s case, coupled with its very rich characterization is one of my personal favorites this year so far and is sure to be on my 2016 top ten list.
Susie Steiner is a former Guardian journalist. She was a commissioning editor for that paper for eleven years and prior to that worked for The Times, The Daily Telegraph, and the Evening Standard. “Missing, Presumed” is her second novel. She lives in London with her husband and two sons.