Written by Susie Steiner — Old-style TV crime dramas have a lot to answer for. At an hour long (minus advert breaks) they had a beginning, middle and all-tied-up-in-a-neat-bow ending. Sadly, life isn’t like that.
Some crimes are never solved, with both police and victims stuck in a limbo they can never escape, while others may take a huge amount of time and resources before the culprit is brought to book. Steiner’s lugubrious take on the police procedural is probably much nearer to the truth of real-life crime solving, but there are certainly times where you’d like to chivvy things along a bit.
Edith Hind has it all. She is beautiful, intelligent, comes from a well-connected family, boasts a head-turningly handsome partner – and is missing from her Cambridgeshire home. The alarm is raised after the aforementioned boyfriend returns from a weekend away to find the front for open, the place in disarray, scary spatters of blood on the kitchen floor – and no sign of his beloved Edie.
As all crime fiction lovers know, the next 72 hours are vital if the case is to be solved quickly, but DS Manon Bradshaw and the rest of the investigation team are stumped. Trouble is, the more they dig into the life of the missing Cambridge post-graduate, the more complicated things get – and none of those pesky complications look likely to help them find the missing woman.
Family connections and the fact that Edie is both beautiful and bright mean that the story is soon headline news, piling even more pressure upon a floundering police investigation. Meanwhile, the body of a young black man is found in suspicious circumstances, but the case doesn’t even cause as ripple of interest with the media.
Regardless of sex, colour or background, neither mystery is likely to be solved quickly and you must prepare yourself for a long wait before things are resolved. Meantime, there is the thorny issue of Manon’s love life to explore… in minute detail. That’s the trouble with this book, it has the dual story lines of Edie’s disappearance and Manon’s forays into the world of internet dating and beyond, and it moves exceedingly slowly in both of them.
In Manon Bradshaw we have yet another police officer battling her inner demons. An insomniac and serial singleton, she has enough baggage to keep a the entire Kardashian clan happy. I much preferred her police sidekick, DC Davy Walker, who is an earnest, thoughtful type who also has personal problems but seems happy to tackle them himself, without any fanfare or fuss.
Missing, Presumed is a novel that’s rich in lyrical description but perhaps a little short on fast-moving excitement. We follow the narrative progression from a number of different viewpoints, including Manon, Davy, Edith’s mother Miriam and Edith’s best friend and sometime lover Helena, each drip-feeding the information. There are plenty of twists and turns before a finale which may well leave you grinding your teeth in frustration.
Former regional and national newspaper journalist Steiner has a wonderful way with words and there will be times when you marvel at her writing skills – however, if you prefer your crime writing punchy and page turning, probably best to look elsewhere.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars