This is Susie Steiner’s second novel, and the first in a new crime series featuring DS Manon Bradshaw (the follow up, ‘Persons Unknown’, is out now). When we first meet Manon, she’s on an internet date and wishing she wasn’t. But as we soon learn, Manon finds it hard to have fun. In one short chapter, Steiner paints a vivid portrait of a woman so wedded to the job, she relaxes by listening to the radio marked ‘Property of Cambridgeshire Police’, soothed to sleep by reports of road traffic accidents.
But then a major case puts her to the test. Together with DI Harriet Harper, Manon is called to investigate the disappearance of a young woman, Edith Hind, whose handsome boyfriend Will Carter is a prime suspect. When it becomes clear that Will wasn’t Edith’s only love interest, the net widens. Soon the press are on the case, as Edith’s father Sir Ian and mother Miriam struggle to hold themselves and their marriage together in the face of growing public scrutiny. Then a body is discovered, the pressure on Manon mounts and we get to see what she’s really made of.
This is exceptional crime fiction – dark and witty and beautifully written. The pace slows at times and some of the twists are more satisfying than others. But these are minor quibbles. Where Steiner excels is in her characterisation and with Manon she’s created a truly compelling detective – often unsympathetic, sometimes even pathetic, but also brave, determined, funny and all too human in her frailties and coping mechanisms. I can’t wait for her next case.
Borough Press, £8.99