Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner is the second in a crime fiction series featuring Detective Manon Bradshaw. It is set in Cambridgeshire, where Manon who is 42, single and pregnant, lives with her 12-year old adopted son, Fly Dent. They are relatively new to the area and Fly is attending a new school. They moved because Manon was in search of better work life balance. Living with them are Manon’s sister Ellie and Ellie’s son, Solly.

Manon’s role is to investigate cold crimes. It’s not an exciting job but it suits her while she’s pregnant.  However, when a new murder investigation points towards Manon’s family members, she can’t help but get involved.

The story begins when a wealth manager, Jon-Oliver Ross bleeds to death in the arms of a woman who claims not to know him. The woman says she came across Ross by accident while walking her dog in the woods. Trouble is, Ross died from stab wounds, there’s no dog, and it’s not clear what either of them was doing in the woods in the first place.

When the police open an investigation, Manon discovers that Ross is  Solly’s father. Worse still, Fly is a suspect but there’s little Manon can do to help him because she’s not allowed work on the case. So, she calls on a lawyer friend, Mark, and together they set about proving Fly’s innocence. In the process, they find out a lot more about Ross’s connections and lifestyle. Some of this is dangerous and uncomfortably close to home for Manon.

Complicated plot

Susie Steiner delivers a nicely complicated plot in Persons Unknown but there are a lot of characters and it takes a while to get to know them. This is partly because the narration switches between different points of view. I would have liked more back story on Ellie and her relationship with Jon-Oliver and on Manon. That said, if you read Missing, Presumed you might not need it as much. Despite this criticism, the plot is interesting and holds attention well with nice, short chapters that make for a fast and easy read.

The Wall Street Journal included Susie Steiner’s earlier novel Missing, Presumed in their ten best mysteries of the year. Having read Persons Unknown, I will keep an eye out for future titles in this series.

Disclosure: I read an uncorrected proof copy provided by Harper Collins.

In Deep Water by Sam Blake

In Deep Water is Sam Blake’s second novel featuring Detective Garda Cat Connolly. A tense crime procedural, it is set in South Dublin and North Wicklow with the action kicking off when Cat’s friend Sarah Jane Hansen goes missing.

A student at DCU, Sarah Jane works part time job as a waitress in a trendy restaurant called The Rookery. She was last seen leaving work when her boss, Billy Roberts, put her in a taxi. According to Roberts, he sent her home because she wasn’t feeling well. But Sarah Jane didn’t make it home and when Cat investigates, she discovers that someone has ransacked Sarah Jane’s flat.

Fears intensify

Then a body turns up and Cat fears the worst. It turns out not to be Sarah Jane but with her friend still missing Cat’s remains worried. Her fears intensify when she discovers a second waitress is also missing.

Is Roberts telling the truth? And what’s his relationship to restaurant owner Richard Farrell?

The investigation leads Cat and her boss Detective Inspector Dawson O’Rourke into a seedy and dangerous world. Every set of CCTV images  throws up further questions and the fears for Sarah Jane mount.

Readers of Blake’s first Cat Connolly novel, Little Bones, will enjoy how the relationship between Cat and DI O’Rourke develops in In Deep Water.

This is shaping up into a good series and I’m looking forward to getting to know the central characters a little better the next instalment.