Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

Cover of the novel Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner. The back of a woman's head, shoulder-length hair, with trees on either side; all very sepia-toned except for her jacket which is blue.
After a run of some pretty disappointing galleys, I am thrilled to report that this book broke the curse because it is GREAT!

Title: Persons Unknown
Author: Susie Steiner
ISBN: 0812998340
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: July 4, 2017
Page count: 321
Genre: Mystery
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodread’s description:

The sequel to Susie Steiner’s bestselling MISSING, PRESUMED

Manon has settled back into life in Cambridgeshire with her adopted son Fly. She’s perfectly happy working on cold cases until a man is stabbed to death just yards from the police station, and both the victim and the prime suspect turn out to be much closer to home than she would like. How well does Manon know her loved ones, and are they capable of murder?
—————————–

I read Steiner’s first book Missing, Presumed as a galley, too (it was one of my first galley reads!) and really enjoyed it. I don’t read a TON of mysteries despite liking the genre, so I was thrilled to stumble upon this author. This is a series, so if you haven’t read Missing, Presumed yet, I recommend starting there. There aren’t really any spoilers about the mystery aspect of it in Persons Unknown, but it does introduce you to recurring characters so you have a firmer footing in the story.

Manon Bradshaw is the main character in both books, and I just love her – she is such a delightful mess. Manon is so far from perfect, and she knows it but can’t help herself because she is above all HUMAN, and it’s just really refreshing to read. Steiner has a fantastic sense of humor that is threaded throughout the whole book (I highlighted SO many passages!), and it’s most clearly realized in the characters of Manon and Birdie.

The mystery in Steiner’s first book was definitely compelling, but it had a teeny bit of something unsatisfying about it; it was a little remote in feeling. The mystery in Persons Unknown could NOT be more immediate – it affects several of the main characters – including Manon – personally, and this was a satisfying change. I do want to be clear that this is not a thriller – the pacing is steady, not urgent. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a thriller from time to time, but there does seem to be a glut of them lately, so it was really nice to read something that is a mystery first.

One cool aspect is that since this is a book with multiple perspectives, the reader has the benefit of the collected experience of all, and this creates some delicious dramatic tension, since we know more than the characters do individually. Another interesting facet for reading nerds is that this is written mostly in 3rd person, but there is one character, Birdie, who is written in 1st person. I didn’t know what to make of the combination at first, but I really came to love reading Birdie’s 1st person voice (her obsession with a certain British politician is so great!). I now wonder if Steiner did it to differentiate Birdie from Manon more clearly – they are VERY different characters, but they share a similar snarky, self-deprecating sense of humor (which I love so much).

This was a mystery where I guessed a few things correctly (or rather, knew that certain aspects were WRONG) but I was definitely surprised by some things in the end. Not, like, fell-off-my-chair floored, but definitely a bit “Ohhhhhhhh.” 

One more random thing: the way that Steiner writes about motherhood is so authentic that you absolutely KNOW she has been there. A+ on that.

This is a great series, and you should definitely read it. If I had to choose, I’d say I definitely liked Persons Unknown more than Missing, Presumed, but both are solid reads!

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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