If you’ve been reading reviews here for a while, you may have noticed I don’t read many mysteries. The truth is, I’m kind of a chicken. I have an overactive imagination and when I read horror or violence I have a hard time keeping my brain from focusing on those mental images. (And it doesn’t even have to be that horrific or violent – my brain is happy to fill in those gaps.) So instead, I choose to avoid things that seem too scary.
I was interested enough in Missing, Presumed however to make an exception and I’m happy to report that it’s not particularly violent or horrifying. While definitely a mystery, the descriptions are far from gratuitous and the conclusion didn’t leave my mind running horror movie scenarios late at night.
The novel switches between perspectives but our main character is Detective Manon Bradshaw. She’s thirty-nine and wants to find someone to share her life with. This doesn’t seem to be happening via her string of bad internet dates but Manon is also dedicated to her job with the Cambridgeshire Police and throws herself into the latest Missing Persons case.
Edith Hind is twenty-four, smart though a little flighty, and when her house is found empty and her phone, coat, and car have all been left behind, she is declared missing. As the case drags on (and I liked that it did realistically drag on), the worst is presumed. Edith’s father just so happens to be a very successful surgeon (surgeon to the Royal Family, no less) and so the case instantly gains a high profile in the media, along with all the pressures that brings.
Steiner does well at showing the day-to-day actions and work of the police. The balance of public investigation and the need to protect witnesses, the monotony of some of it and the heartbreak of other parts. Manon and her fellow detectives are generally well-balanced, interesting characters, though they do all seem pretty unsuccessful in their personal lives. I also enjoyed the very British-ness of the novel. It felt accurate and interesting without being forced or over-the-top.
For me, the weak parts of the novel came primarily with the conclusion. As I said, I appreciated that Steiner did portray how the case dragged on. How the public loses interest, how the police move on to other things no matter how much they might still personally care. She also delves into how this affects Edith’s family and their attempts to continue their lives without answers. So it was almost disappointing when the case was very neatly summed up and concluded. Even more so when all the random leads and guesses that the police had did turn out to be related. Being able to make connections between every single minor or large crime that happened in the book and every random interview the police made seemed very unrealistic to me.
While this book hasn’t turned me into a mystery reader, I was glad to branch out in my reading and try something different.