Random House, 368 pages, $27 (anticipated release date - 6/28/16)
British author Susie Steiner has a hefty background in newspapers. She quit a few years ago when her first novel, “Homecoming,” was published. “Missing, Presumed” is her first crime novel.
DS Manon Bradshaw, Steiner’s hapless protagonist, is part of the solid Major Incident Team, detectives who investigate suspicious situations. Because of Steiner’s journalistic background, her book seems especially authentic with respect to the various political machinations that go on in a police department. Her characters don’t charge ahead so much as stutter forward through budgetary constraints and over-promoted superiors.
Many characters share the stage with their own chapters, despite Manon’s predominance. This is a good thing. Manon is a mess. One wonders how she manages to be a functioning detective. Crippled by loneliness, emotional volatility, self-pity, a ticking biological clock, and a dysfunctional family situation, she appears to be tethered to reality by one loose screw. It seems that she spends more time crying in the bathroom than detecting. If anything, her character weakens an interesting and strong story.
The main story is of a young woman who is missing from the home she shares with her fianacé. Her front door has been left open and there is blood on the floor. Of course it puts the spotlight on those closest to her, and most have secrets that couldn’t bear the light of day.
The detectives must also juggle other crimes, including finding out what a decomposed corpse was doing in the river. Manon, along with Harriet and Davy, other members of the team, must discover if there is a connection between the woman’s disappearance and the unidentified body.
Steiner’s strength is in her characterizations, in humanizing what could be stock crime story characters. Even Manon’s pathetic nature eventually transforms and transcends — as it must, or what’s the point.