by Susie Steiner
Will Carter comes home on a Sunday night a week before Christmas to find the door ajar, smears of blood in the kitchen and on the hall floor and his girl friend, Edith Hind, missing. He presumes the worst.
When the Cambridgeshire police are brought in and learn that Edith is the daughter of Sir Ian Hind, ear, nose and throat specialist to the royal family, they presume this will be a high risk, high profile missing person case and gear up for battle.
Unlike the usual police procedural, which focuses on the steps of a crime investigation, author Susie Steiner has written a story best described as “crime in the round.”
In alternating chapters, Steiner shifts the focus from one richly drawn character’s perspective to another: Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw, 39, fighting loneliness and estrangement from her family; Miriam Hind, Edith’s mother, a physician eclipsed by her more famous husband; Helena Reed, Edith’s close friend; Detective Constable Davy Walker, eternally optimistic and looking for the best from people, even as he deals with criminals and squabbling colleagues and superiors; and ultimately Edith herself.
While Edith’s disappearance — a mystery on several levels — is the hub of the story, the shifting perspective shines a light on the human toll the unfolding events have on the people affected by Edith’s disappearance.
Sir Ian’s frustrated powerlessness makes him fragile and demanding on police and family. The army of police officers working the disappearance are pulling double shifts and operating in a fog of fatigue.
When Edith’s brother, Rollo, arrives from Buenos Aires, where he has been living, Davy observes, “Rollo Hind seems all Hollywood, while he and Manon, their complexions the color of canteen mash, are rocking the 15-hour shift look.”
Miriam imagines that once she and her husband leave Huntingdon, the town where Edith lived, and return to their home in Hampstead “she might return to the woman she was only four days ago, preparing for Christmas, snipping stems of eucalyptus, steeping dried figs in brandy, untangling strings of white pin lights. She feels a growing anger with Edith for putting her through this, as if she were some limitlessly absorbent sponge for her daughter’s mess. And then her anger makes her cry again, because she wants nothing except to have Edith back.”
Packs of ravenous reporters in various grades of professionalism dog the heels of the police, the Hind family, Will Carter and Helena Reed.
Clues fall as gently as leaves on the surface of a lake in this story. The suspense is unrelenting. As the story unfolds, it is clear that there are more than one victim in this story, with Edith not necessarily being the most tragically damaged.
This well-written novel beautifully refreshes the thread-bare police procedural genre with richly drawn characters, unrelenting suspense about the nature of this event and unexpected resolution.