By Susie Steiner
A young woman vanishes. A smear of blood in the kitchen of the house she shares with her boyfriend suggests a struggle...
As soon as Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw sees the photograph of missing Edith Hind - a beautiful Cambridge post-grad from a well-connected family - she knows the case will be big. And she's right: pressure soon mounts from the media and from on high.Can Manon see clearly enough to solve the mystery of Edith's disappearance? Can she withstand intimidation from Sir Ian Hind, Edith's father, who has friends in high places? And when a body is found, will it mean the end or just the beginning?
In some ways I thought this was a good book and I enjoyed reading it but in other ways I found it disappointing. The characters were interesting and well-developed and I cared about what happened with them. However, the book itself left no lasting impression on me.
The main character in the book is Manon, a police officer whose name means ‘bitter’ in Hebrew. The book opens on a disastrous date she is on, “she can feel hope ebbing, like Christmas lights on fade in Pound Saver.” Manon has a disastrous love-life and difficult family relationships and it becomes clear her job is the only fulfilling thing in her life.
Manon’s chapters in the book have a humorous and slightly despairing tone to them, particularly with regards to her love life. For example, “She got on the first train out of Kings Cross, back to Huntingdon, as if fleeing the scent of decomposing flesh.” In fact,, her love life is a bit of a train wreck, “Perhaps now she comes to think of it, she slept with him to shut him up.”
Manon’s disastrous personal life is reflected in her home, “under Manon’s tenure, however, this room had lost much of it’s allure: boots stacked by the bed, covered with a film of dust; a cloudy glass of water; wires trailing from her police radio to the plug, and among them grey fluff and human hair curling like DNA.
To top it all off Manon “is drawn to the wider fittings in Clarks, has begun to have knee troubles and is disturbed to find that clipping her toenails leaves her vaguely out of puff.”
Manon takes comfort from listening to her police radio off duty, “it is human kindness in action, protecting the good against the bad.”
The second chapter in the book introduces us to Miriam, or Lady Hind. I liked the way the author ended Miriam’s chapter by introducing us to the fact that her daughter, Edith, was missing. At the start of her chapter Miriam is musing how lucking she is to have a daughter as she has someone to look after her in her old age. She quickly becomes annoyed with herself for this way of thinking though, “and then she curses herself because it goes against all her feminist principles – requiring her clever, Cambridge-educated daughter to wipe her wrinkly old bottom and bring her meals and audio books, probably while juggling toddlers and some pathetic attempt at a career.”
We learn from her chapter that Edith probably isn’t the best of daughters, “She wants Edith to fulfil her daughterly duties (thoughtful Christmas presents, regular phone calls, eventually home-cooked meals when Miriam’s in her dotage) yet at the same time she wants to liberate her; she wants for her total professional freedom and a truly feminist husband who empties the dishwasher without being asked. And mingled in, she wants her daughter to share in her suffering, the same sacrifices, and she doesn’t know why.”
I liked Miriam’s character because, although she was fairly meek and mild at her husband’s side, she clearly had a feisty side and a mind of her own.
I thought the author created more of a sense of suspense by having us learn of her disappearance from her mother’s point of view. I also found that this made me feel more invested in the outcome of the investigation.
“Calm down Will…No she’s not here…Since when?’ She says, as Ian joins her in the hallway, slightly stooped and craning to hear.” Shortly after this Ian takes the phone from her, “Miriam listens, placing the flowers onto the hallway table, then she cups her hand over the phones mouthpiece. ‘He says he found the door open and the lights on. She’s left everything in the house – her keys , her phone, her shoes. Her car’s outside. Even her coat’s there.’ Ian tells Will to hang up and call the police and Miriam crumples in on herself.
Manon is informed of the potential missing person and heads to investigate. “Mr Carter has reported his girlfriend Edith Hind missing. He returned home at 9pm this evening to find the front door ajar, the coats in disarray and blood on the kitchen floor, and some on the cupboard door just above it.” At this point she has already been missing 20 hours, “they are silent. They both know the first seventy- two hours are critical for a high-risk missing person. You find them or you find a body.”
As the book continues the suspense builds as to whether they will find Edith and when they do will she be alive. However, there were times in the book where I just didn’t care either way which they found, if any.
Part of the problem is that Edith is not a very likeable character from the little bits the reader finds out from friends and family. She is vain and selfish and a bit of a bore. For example, Edith didn’t have a bank account because “she feels the whole banking industry is corrupt. According to Edie if no one used banks then the whole global economic collapse wouldn’t have happened.”
“They have a project…to live truthfully. Grow food, cook wholesomely, cycle, or chug along in that trumped-up lawnmower of hers…Oh, they’re both really into it. The aim is to live a simple but I s’pose, pure life. They call it living truthfully, which made me want to self harm.”
“Because Edith was always over-dramatising her feelings, as if to make herself heard over a din. And this…event seems to Miriam somehow typical. Her eldest had never realised that a simple statement of fact was enough, it had to be ‘the worst time ever’ or ‘literally a nightmare’. “
In the end this book turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.
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