As dusk falls a young man staggers through a park, far from home, bleeding from a stab wound. He dies where he falls; cradled by a stranger, a woman’s name on his lips in his last seconds of life.
DI Manon Bradshaw can’t help taking an interest – these days she only handles cold cases, but the man died just yards from the police station where she works.
She’s horrified to discover that both victim and prime suspect are more closely linked to than she could have imagined. And as the Cambridgeshire police force closes ranks against her, she is forced to contemplate the unthinkable.
How well does she know her loved ones, and are they capable of murder?
Persons Unknown is the second instalment in the Manon Bradshaw series, picking up several months after the events of its predecessor. Published mid-2017, Susie Steiner has once again delivered an incredible crime novel, filled with compelling realism and unshakeable mystery.
Having first met DI Manon Bradshaw in Missing, Presumed, Persons Unknown introduces not only a different side to our beloved detective, but also an added layer to her complexity. She is now a pregnant, single-mother, having adopted Fly Dent – a familiar face from Missing, Presumed who had to deal with the death of his caring, older brother and the slow decline of his biological mother. But if you expect Manon’s life to be somewhat more settled in comparison to Steiner’s prior book, it is far from that. Manon is finding it hard to settle into her job of sifting through cold cases back in Cambridgeshire, as well as having to deal with the tiresome effects of pregnancy. More so, she is having to cope with both Fly’s and Ellie’s odd and secretive behaviour. And things are only about to get worse when a homicide close to home leads Manon to cast doubt on those closest to her.
Surrounding the familiarity of her previous work, Steiner has pushed the series into new territory when an investigation into the death of a banker turns out to be Ellie’s son’s father, Jon-Oliver Ross. Blame is thrown fiercely onto members of Manon’s family, causing a rift in the tranquillity she has tried so hard to maintain.
Once again, the narrative is played out by a plethora of characters, with Manon and Davy reprising their places alongside new perspectives, such as Jon-Oliver, Saskia and Birdie. The use of this method makes for a slow-burning and intricate read, finely littering clues and subplots in between the main story.
Persons Unknown not only touches on a criminal syndicate of the rich and wealthy, but also subtle everyday issues, such as Fly’s feelings in regards to Manon’s pregnancy, Manon’s search for love and acceptance, and her strained relationship with Ellie and co-workers. It also dabbles in the harder topics, such as self-harm, abuse and discrimination.
What is nice to see, throughout the chaotic chapters, is the evolution of the characters, especially those we have come to connect with since the series began. Aside from our main protagonist, we get to see Davy’s life after his break-up and his struggles of filling the shoes Manon left behind when she moved to London. What Davy feels – his uncertainty in his position – is a fear many tend to face.
Overall, I highly recommend not only this book, but the entire series so far. It is worth mentioning that although it is the second in a series, it also perfect as a stand alone.
A third instalment is currently underway, but for now there is no confirmation as to when this shall be published.