Book Review: Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

This is not right, something’s not right. There are forces in the room that are not being talked about, invisible as magnetic fields, pulling the investigation in a direction it doesn’t want to go.

Quickly picking up the plot-lines left from her previous novel, Missing, Presumed, Susie Steiner enmeshes readers into the familiar life of Manon Bradshaw in Persons Unknown; however a few surprises still remain to be discovered.

For the first time in Manon’s life, she is not moving through the world alone. She has a companion tucked inside her, her favorite kind of human: silent.

Manon is grappling with the demands that her job, her pregnancy and her new adoptive son, Fly require of her. After a futile attempt at transformation and escape via London, Manon and her makeshift family, including her sister, Ellie and nephew Solomon, return to Cambridgeshire. While this may suit Manon and her sister, Fly is at odds being the only Black teenager in the neighborhood. Manon begs to return to her job and is swiftly caught up by the river of detective work when a new crime rents a giant hole through her personal life.

“Got an ID yet?” “Jon-Oliver Ross,” says Harriet, peering into Manon’s paper bag. “Have you got an apricot one of those? Posh banker type, from Lon—” “Fuck,” says Manon. “What?” says Harriet. “Fuck,” Manon says again, feeling behind her for a surface on which to perch or steady herself. “He’s Solly’s dad. Jon-Oliver is Ellie’s ex.”

As quickly as this news can be delivered, Manon faces another blow. Fly is arrested as one- the only- suspect in the murder of his adoptive cousin’s father. When rock-solid evidence points to Fly’s proximity to the murder, Manon questions both the reason behind Fly’s presence at the scene and the possible prejudices of her coworkers.

She’d had to have “the conversation” with him back in London, when he was repeatedly being stopped and searched: her sermon on how to behave with the police. Don’t get their backs up, don’t disagree, don’t be impolite, don’t question their authority. And she’d thought, as she said it, that what she was really saying was, You cannot be fully yourself in this situation. You must reduce yourself, because the justice system that protects me is a risk to you.

A battle of sorts ensues- outwardly between Manon and the police department as she is now unable to have any participation in the investigation of this case given it’s personal nature and inwardly between Manon’s pure love for her son and the realization that she is outside of her depth in raising him.  Is it possible for Manon to save Fly? Who can she trust to look beyond the bias of race? What will they find if they do?

Not without the trademark Manon humor, Persons Unknown is a well-paced mystery that wrestles with the tough topics of dishonesty, race and corruption and doesn’t shy away from revealing them in full light. When it is all unveiled, it becomes clear that we can never truly know everything about a person.

“You may not know him as well as you think you do.”

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A review copy of this title was provided by Random House and Netgalley

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

  1. Truth be told, I didn’t enjoy the first book very much, and I found Manon super annoying. BUT, I have been curious if there were some improvements in this one? Would you say it’s better or worse than Missing?

    Liked by 1 person

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