Thursday, March 2, 2017

Book 66: Missing, Presumed

"Her lonely bench, police blue, on a deserted Sunday platform; wondering what's left in the fridge for tea. The problem of food, for one: it symbolizes everything. She wants delicious morsels, yet cooking for herself is so defeating: a surplus of ingredients, the washing-up unshared, and the sense that it doesn't matter- the production of it or whether it's nice." 

Dates read: June 27- July 2, 2016

Rating: 7/10

Nothing sets off the media like the disappearance of a pretty young white lady. Pretty young white lady goes missing, and the news cycle promptly revolves around it. Dudes don't merit nearly the same kind of coverage, and for people of color, it's practically nonexistent. It's hard to see how it's not tied up in the "flower of white womanhood" thought pattern that posits pretty young white ladies as delicate symbols of purity (not human beings with the right of self-determination, oh no) that need to be protected (by white men, naturally) from evildoers (usually people of color). A pretty young white lady goes missing, and things go a little crazy.

And it's not just us in the US, apparently. In Susie Steiner's Missing, Presumed, the pretty young white lady, Edith Head, is also posh (her father is a physician for the Royal family and connected to top government officials), which means that things really go bonkers. The book isn't really about Edith, though. It's about how the way she suddenly vanishes one night after going out for drinks with her boyfriend and best friend sends shockwaves through a whole host of people: her mother (whose own medical career was forced into the backseat by her husband's), the aforementioned best friend (who worships her), and of course the police, particularly Manon Bradshaw, the detective assigned to the case and her sweet-natured partner Davy. When a seemingly unconnected body turns up in a river nearby not too long after the disappearance, Manon can't shake her sense that the two cases are somehow connected and she doggedly fights to find out what links them.

Steiner has done one of my favorite things with Manon: she's written a strong female character who's a bit of a mess without losing her strength. Manon's about to turn 40, desperate for a family, and can't quite seem to stop sleeping with just about every dude she meets from internet dating sites, no matter how terrible the date. She's not written as an out-of-control sad sack, though, just lonely and wanting a family of her own and having no idea how to get there. When she finally does find herself in a relationship, though, the way it plays out is so cringeworthily realistic to anyone who's ever been unhappily single (I have definitely been in that category before): how fast she falls, ignoring warning signs, and how gut-wrenching it is when it comes apart. I did find myself wishing that Steiner had either centered the entire story on Manon or made more use of the other narrators...Manon is by far the dominant voice, and the others are used so relatively little, that it feels like Steiner couldn't make up her mind which way she wanted it to go and tried to have it both ways.

The mystery part of the plot, which is secondary to the character development part of things, was suitably well-done for me in terms of not being really obvious (I'm not much of a mystery reader so your mileage may vary) but I found myself questioning the motivation behind the eventual solution: I didn't think that the driving character would have behaved in the way that they did and thought it all wound up a little too neatly tied in a bow. But since the focus was really on the characters and the characters were well-written, I really enjoyed it.

Tell me, blog friends...have you ever been unhappily single?

One year ago, I was reading: Without You, There Is No Us


  1. I started this, but didn't finish it. I just couldn't get into Manon's character. Might give it another chance though after reading this review, still sounds like it has some major problems though :/

    1. It's interesting...I usually write reviews pretty shortly after finishing the book in question. I liked this book pretty well right after I read it, but I honestly can barely remember it now. But we're all our own best barometers for reading, so if you tried and gave up on it, it's probably best to call it done.