Cheri Reviews Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Over the past several years, I’ve discovered that I love British crime/detective/mystery books. L-O-V-E them. The language, the settings, and the cultural differences from Americans make them my go-to books when I’m looking for something new to read. It was for this reason that I first noticed Missing, Presumed on NetGalley. I received an ARC many months ago and started it but just wasn’t in the right frame of mind so I put it away. Once I put it down, I mostly forgot about it. Until, that is, I saw the audio book was narrated by Juanita McMahon, who I love. That was enough motivation to get me to jump in with both feet, er, with both ears.

There were no false starts with the audio and I had a tough time pausing for life’s little interruptions like feeding and caring for my child and sleep. It wasn’t that the action was non-stop or that the case was so incredibly engaging, but that the development of the characters and story that had me hooked. And Ms. McMahon, of course.

Here’s the blurb:

At thirty-nine, Manon Bradshaw is a devoted and respected member of the Cambridgeshire police force, and though she loves her job, what she longs for is a personal life. Single and distant from her family, she wants a husband and children of her own. One night, after yet another disastrous Internet date, she turns on her police radio to help herself fall asleep—and receives an alert that sends her to a puzzling crime scene.

Edith Hind—a beautiful graduate student at Cambridge University and daughter of the surgeon to the Royal Family—has been missing for nearly twenty-four hours. Her home offers few clues: a smattering of blood in the kitchen, her keys and phone left behind, the front door ajar but showing no signs of forced entry. Manon instantly knows that this case will be big—and that every second is crucial to finding Edith alive.

The investigation starts with Edith’s loved ones: her attentive boyfriend, her reserved best friend, her patrician parents. As the search widens and press coverage reaches a frenzied pitch, secrets begin to emerge about Edith’s tangled love life and her erratic behavior leading up to her disappearance. With no clear leads, Manon summons every last bit of her skill and intuition to close the case, and what she discovers will have shocking consequences not just for Edith’s family but for Manon herself.

Suspenseful and keenly observed, Missing, Presumed is a brilliantly twisting novel of how we seek connection, grant forgiveness, and reveal the truth about who we are.

I won’t give any spoilers away but I will say that, while I had a good idea of what happened to Edith, I didn’t know why until it was revealed. I was a bit disappointed in the way the case panned out but I did still enjoy the journey. For me, the big draw was the human aspect of the book. Was Manon whiny at times and did I want to smack her for some of her choices regarding dating and relationships? Sure, but some of those scenes and decisions helped to flesh out her insecurities and desires and needs. I also enjoyed learning more about the other POV characters.

I generally hate when anyone compares a book to the standard The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl so I’m sorry to do that here. But I only want to compare them with regard to the dark feel of the stories and the way I felt very much in the heads of some of the characters. The biggest difference, I think, between those books and this one is that not everyone in Missing, Presumed is an awful human being who I would like to see harmed. There were very few instances of me seriously wanting to hurt characters in Missing, Presumed.

I certainly look for the next book by Ms. Steiner.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with the ebook to read and review. And thanks to Juanita McMahon for finally getting me to experience it.

You can download a sample or purchase Missing, Presumed by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

I received this book quite a long time ago from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review. Unfortunately, I’m really, really far behind on all my reviews so I was pleased when I saw I could get the audio book from the library. I have much more time for ear reading and I enjoyed the narrator’s work on The Winter People so it was a win-win!

Here’s the blurb from Amazon (skip it if you want to be surprised. I won’t give anything away):

Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel’s past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock’s next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

This is the first time I’ve read the blurb (the misspelling of Sylvie’s name isn’t mine but Amazon’s) and it’s pretty spot on. I’m glad I didn’t read it first because I had no idea what was going on. The story is told in three different time frames: the 1950s, the late 1980s, and 2013-2014. There are also quite a few POVs. Between the jumping times and changing points of view, I was nervous that I’d be yanked out of the story and have a hard time actually connecting with the characters. I’m happy to report that it wasn’t an issue at all. I became very quickly involved in the stories – Rose and Sylvie, teen-aged Piper, Amy, and Margot, and the grown-up versions of them all.

I don’t want to spoil anything for you if you’ve not jumped on the bandwagon and read this yet. I’ll say that I enjoyed this book more than I did The Winter People, which I did like. I felt that the story was tight and plausible – which can be tough to do when you’re talking about supernatural stuff. There were plenty of twists and I was so into the story that I didn’t want to stop and think my predictions through too much. Some stuff I had figured out but even a few of those didn’t turn out exactly like I thought. And the creepy, spooky feel of the book was fantastic. It reminded me of when I read Stephen King books in the 80s and 90s – the things that scare one the most are the things that could actually happen and this felt like that.

Besides the horror/supernatural stuff – which, by the way, is never very graphic – there’s a lot to do with family and friend dynamics. Honestly, there was a lot to like about The Night Sister.

I definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for a well-written, entertaining, and creepy story with characters who feel genuine and complex. I hope Ms. McMahon has another book in the works.

Molly Jones Reviews Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

Anything’s legal if you can get away with it…Welcome to the Atlanta Police Department.

Atlanta circa 1974 definitely wasn’t the best place for a new female cop to cut her teeth. Kate Murphy, the heroine of Karin Slaughter’s latest novel Cop Town, is dispatched straight into this maelstrom of resentment and political upheaval, fresh out of what passed for training, and wearing a uniform far too large and designed for humiliation. On her first day, the only advice from her supervisor is to strap down her breasts to avoid giving her male colleagues a heart attack. Most new recruits wash out quickly, and Kate – Jewish, attractive, raised on the good side of town, but with a husband dead in Vietnam – is adamant that she won’t be one of them. What she doesn’t know is exactly how much of herself she will have to lose in order to survive.

Regular readers of Karin Slaughter will already be familiar with the themes and era in Cop Town. Slaughter stuck a tentative toe into these waters in Criminal, splitting the action there between present day and flashbacks to 1974. With Cop Town, however, she has plunged right in, creating a brand new cast of characters but returning to Criminal’s central issue: the battle facing women trying to carve out a career in a male-dominated environment whilst working in a city crippled by poverty and besieged by violence and racial tensions.

Sticking to her usual strategy, Slaughter splits Cop Town’s narrative into three points of view, neatly contrasting Kate’s deer-in-headlights vision of the Atlanta PD with that of more seasoned cop Maggie Lawson. Thrown straight in at the deep end, Kate embarks on her chosen career the day after the so-called Atlanta Shooter executes his fifth police officer. As discrepancies about this latest murder come to light, she and Maggie leave the boys to their tub-thumping and set out to investigate the leads that everyone else is ignoring. Anyone hoping for buddy movie-type bonding is going to be disappointed though; the two women are the antithesis of each other, and a large part of the novel’s tension arises from their edgy, at times downright hostile relationship. If the male officers are belligerent, dead-set on retribution, and largely drunk, the women are almost as bad. Having run a gauntlet of roaming hands and verbal abuse to reach the locker room, Kate then faces a second, more subtle but just as brutal ordeal from her female colleagues. It’s a neat and effective scene that establishes the dichotomy at the heart of the book: to succeed, Kate must chip away at everything she is, eroding those fragile parts that her enemies can prey on and carving out a new, tougher identity. In working out what of herself to sacrifice and what values to try to preserve, Kate realises she’s capable of far more than she ever would have predicted, and that not all of these changes are changes she can be proud of.

Slaughter’s third point of view belongs to Fox, the murderer at the heart of the manhunt, and it is his voice, motivations, and methodology that are perhaps the weakest elements of the novel. Obviously enamoured of her period research and determined to make that count on the page, Slaughter seems to have forgotten that she still needs a strong storyline to carry the novel through. Instead we get Fox, a walking cliché of bitterness and prejudice, conveniently obsessed with Kate, and dead set on a nefarious path. Unusually for Slaughter, the murder plotline is linear and simplistic, with few red herrings and little in the way of shocks. While you may not guess the identity of the perp, it certainly doesn’t rock your socks when he’s finally unmasked.

Although lacking in twists and turns, Cop Town is by no means an easy read. At times, the relentless barrage of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism is a little like being smacked over the head by a blunt object, while the humour that leavens the onslaught is blacker than midnight and should come with some sort of health warning. If you found the flashbacks in Criminal too raw to stomach, you’ll probably want to steer clear of this one, but if you’re in the mood for lovingly recreated period detail, a rough ride into a troubled city, and an insight into a past many would rather forget you could do a lot worse than add Cop Town to your summer reading list.

You can download a sample or purchase Cop Town by clicking here.