Book Review: Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

What you should know

Missing, Presumed is essentially about how absence impacts the lives of people. How the void filled by people in our lives becomes fully appreciated in their absence. Our personality and behaviors are shaped by relationships, and by the dynamic of how we interact with one another. The feelings and impressions caused by what others do around us. What we do with these feelings creates a persona from which we view our environment, make our decisions, and it influences how we categorize our efforts, positively, negatively, or with indifference.

In the setting we find Manon, who is very fearful of intimacy, having suffered the death of her mother at the age of 14. She also witnessed her grief stricken father sleepwalk through his responsibilities only to replace their mother with a new wife whom she does not accept.

Another player in this drama is Manon’s partner Davy, who is in a relationship with a depressed girlfriend. Davy needs the to be with someone, anyone, more than he actually needs her.

Then there are the three people affected most by the missing person, Edith. Her best friend Helena, who’s fragile in so many ways that without the presence of the dominant Edith in her life, she might not be able to handle it. Next is Ian, Edith’s overbearing father, now distant from her mother Miriam, is it because she is the missing link that connected them? Finally we have Miriam, who suffers the most when her daughter goes missing. We see every ramification of the effect it has, on her thought life, her daily routine, her belief in herself as a parent, and her relationship with her husband, as well as with the outside world in general.

What I liked

Often it’s the little gems that you discover in a novel that you appreciate most. All of us suffer loss and the grief associated with it. For me this passage struck a chord. On grief –

Manon knows what lies beneath, how people can seem normal and yet grief swirls about like an unseen tide working against the currents of life, the mourner wrong-footed by its undertow. The bereaved should  wear signs, she thinks, saying GRIEF IN PROGRESS – for at least a couple years. (page 275)

As a law enforcement professional I am always aware when something genuine pops out of fiction. Here is one I am especially fond of:

He thought it would be one long arse ache, that pint with the boss, but as they sat at the small round table, he found he was too tired for toadying, so he looked Stanton in the eye and told him how rotten he felt…and how responsible. Stanton licked the foam off his upper lip and said, “If you can keep those feelings, Davy lad-and let me tell you, every minute in the police will chip away at them-but if you can hold on to those human feelings, you might just make a good copper.” (page 270)

What I didn’t like

I think one reason we read fiction is because it can take us to far away places and provide experiences unavailable in our everyday lives. Since police investigations are something I know well from first hand experience, I have found a great entertainment out of exploring police stories in foreign lands. Vikram Chandra provided that for me in Sacred Games. But my absolute favorite is Tana French. This book brought me to England, and the tiny community of Huntingdon.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Sadly, the course of the missing persons case was all too realistic. I have always argued that real police work is unbearably dull and unimaginative, a far cry from the famous fictionalized super sleuths of the traditional detective novel. I found it an accurate rendering of how cases are worked, but how many people find these things great reading? I sure don’t. That’s my paradox. Until I figure it out I won’t be able myself to endeavor to write similar stories with any confidence that an audience is waiting to appreciate them.

Recommendation: Good Read

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