Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

published 2017

Persons Unknown

She lay there, a mass of skirts. Everything black: lace, broderie anglaise in layers - and DM boots poking out. Her eyes were fluttering, black kohl pencil against porcelain skin, and… she shook her head saying, ‘No, no, I’m OK.’ She signalled to me so I put my face next to hers, She didn’t smell how you expect Goths to smell – no cheapo joss sticks or Body Shop musk. She smelled expensive. Citrussy.

[A different narrator, considering a different aspect of the investigation]

Would Kim know the meaning of her clothing, Davy wonders, in the way Manon would? Not the clothing sent to forensics – well those, yes, as well – but her clothing in general: the colours, the price bracket, the shop they came from. These were all markers that Manon could ‘read’. He’s not sure Kim is feminine in that way. Oh Lord, is he being sexist? Not feminine then; judgemental, Manon was master of the snap judgement, which often contained a kernel of truth.

commentary: My friend Kathy Durkin, Kathy D in her comments, put me onto this author: she recommended the 2016 Missing, Presumed, and when I read it I could quite see why: it could have been just another police procedural about a girl who has disappeared (and there are plenty of them around) but it was so much more. And DI Manon Bradshaw is an excellent lead character.

In this one she has made considerable changes in her life since the end of the previous book, and is pregnant, and operating in Cold Cases in Huntingdon. A rich London banker visits the town and is murdered: Manon’s adopted son seems to be a vital witness – or something more?

It is a nasty and complicated story, and contains many features that sometimes concern me: multiple POVs, some first person and some third, use of the present tense, and a lot of detail about personal lives and relationships of the series characters. But I loved the book, raced through it, enjoying every moment of the complex investigation, Manon’s sometimes foolish moves, and the fears and mysteries in her own home.

The narrator of the top excerpt, Birdy, who owns the Payless Drink store, is a tour de force, I absolutely loved her:
We’ve all got our thing, haven’t we? I’m quite safe around a bottle of Chardonnay, I’ve been known to yawn in the face of pornography. Show me a shoe shop and I can walk on by. But salty snacks? I will MOW. YOU. DOWN.
And the sections with Davy, the young policeman, were also beautifully and sympathetically done.

The book is also funny. I like the woman who doesn’t want to move because ‘I’ve got a group of mums I feel comfortably ambivalent about, right here’.

And the young woman who is ‘maybe not supermodel beautiful, but she could definitely get paid to do a catalogue or the Marks & Sparks website.’

And Manon claiming to hate Saul Bellow: so what did she read by him?
‘Dunno, something with “Rabbit” in the title. Man it was boring.’
‘D’you mean Rabbit, Run?’
‘By John Updike?’
‘So have you ever read anything by Saul Bellow?’
‘I don’t think so, no.’

I think we’ve all been there.

So – a most enjoyable book, with excellent characters, and every hope for a long series about Manon Bradshaw. And hat-tip again to Kathy for the recommendation.


  1. Yup, I'm a Susie Steiner fan as well - Manon is proper, believable, likeable & sometimes annoying human being, both bright and fallible. Any TV casting thoughts?

    1. Yes exactly, relatable (newly popular word I started hearing recently - I want to despise it but it does fulfil a useful role). Now I'm trying to think about actors. Manon has that very distinctive hair, and of course the actor doesn't need that, but it does affect my thinking... You got any great ideas?

  2. I need to read some Susie Steiner, Moira. I keep hearing good things about her work, and meaning to try it. It just...hasn't happened yet. Time I rectified that, and I'm very glad you enjoyed this one.

    1. Margot, I really think you would like her. I was very impressed by both books.

  3. I loved this book even more than the first. Manon is so believable, a regular person. And it is funny. And I liked Birdy, too. I could not put this book down either, and am eagerly awaiting the next book in this series.

    But I read a Guardian article about Susie Steiner and that her eyesight is failing. So I don't know if she can write more about Manon or if she is too disabled. I hope that she is able to do so for her own sake, of course. But a wee part of me wishes this for Manon's avid fans.

    1. Well as I said above, very grateful to you for the recommendation. And I have been thinking about both the books since I finished them, always a good sign
      That is indeed worrying news about Susie Steiner.

  4. A bit late getting to this one, but it sounds like I should be on the lookout for books by this author. Although because they are relatively recent and British, they may not be likely to show up at the book sale..

    1. You might have to wait a bit - but they are available in the US. And one of the best new series I've found lately.


Post a Comment