Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner // Book Review // OverMother

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner is the second novel in the DS Manon Bradshaw series. I guess it is also the second book by Susie Steiner. After completing the book, I learned that the author died in 2022 due to cancer. It was like when I discovered that Mo Hayder is dead after reading the Treatment.

Knowing beforehand that the author is dead, like you do with LoTR or Crime and Punishment, is different from reading an author who has written the book in your lifetime and just died a year back before you read their book.

There is an amazing appreciation post on CrimeReads for her that you can read. A snippet sourced from there is what inspired her detective, DS Manon:

Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie novels, which I adored because they have the combination of page-turning grip but also a literary sensibility. They’re beautifully written. They have a dry, ironic humor to them. They’re very closely observed. They’re very beautiful at sentence level. That combination is the most delicious novel. That’s what I was trying to create: a mashup between a literary novel and a crime novel, a potboiler.

I have read Kate Atkinson and Jackson Brodie series — this tiny review is apt. However, the inspiration is not reflected in Susie’s book. It might be because Susies has written in a different voice while trying to capture the same magic.

Overall, after reading Person Unknown, I can say the book differs greatly from Kate Atkinson’s. There is no depth as Kate has, but there is familiarity, like you can see the character’s background woven by Susie. It makes the story interesting and sometimes distracts the reader from the original story.

It depends on what mind frame you are reading the book. Which is the most critical part, and that’s why I always say never believe book reviews. Susie managed to make it a balanced novel. There is depth to characters for the reader who likes to have context in their story, and it’s moving fast enough never to bore the reader with any one character’s melodrama.

persons unknown by susie steiner

DS Manon is boring

The author took a great challenge by making her protagonist, DS Manon, pregnant. You expect a badass detective from a detective series. This is somewhat of a perception. Even in the odd detective series, detectives are often smart — even if it is in a fun way.

DS Manon is anxious, self-centered, and, sometimes, unbearable. She is a cop and still meddles with other cop’s routine tasks to get special treatment. This showcases her as a mother who is pulling every rope to protect her son, but it also shows that if you are the police and in a network with cops, getting justice is different than a common person.

In a recently popular TV series, 12th Fail, a boy cleared IAS (highest civil exam in India). He tells his family, and the father’s first reaction is to go to his nemesis and warn him that he is now the father of IAS. It garnered claps, but the scene literally says that being IAS’s father has given him the power and confidence to do the harm. In another true case, two sisters cleared the civil service exam and opened the file of their DSP father’s murder to get justice.

The worst part, it does not look like Manon is doing anything for her son. She is furious about her image as a mother.  She does not consider the idea that her son could be a different person with an individual mind. I think Susie went overboard with the “good mother” angle and turned the Manon into an unbearable one.

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner quotes

Time wasted on Manon

Persons Unknown could have been more interesting if 200 pages were not spent on useless investigation. The real investigation happens in the last 100 pages, and then the book ends.

The entire angle of Manon’s 14-year-old black son being a murderer is a time-waster. It does not take any shape. There is not enough evidence. It is a plot point to motivate Manon to be involved in this case. There is mention of media of negative publicity how arresting a 14-year-old black kid for the murder of a rich white investment banker. But there is no media mention. When the son tries to take his life, even then, there is no media mention. At last, there is one small newspaper report about escort services and investment service providers.

The police investigation was below average at best. The mother, who is also a cop, acts exasperated. Moreover, she thinks of other women sleeping with the boss if they get promoted.

Forced love interest

Finally, a lawyer, Mark, is trying to help Manon protect her son. But on paper, he doesn’t do much. In the book, he is there to become a default lawyer, but I guess Susie turns him into a love interest out of nowhere. No chemistry or flirting was happening there, and then suddenly, there it was.

Moreover, I would rather believe that the lawyer and Copper would have a hate-love relationship. Then, a neutral-love one. It’s not like Manon was a hot young girl. She is 40+ and pregnant — I find it hard to believe that a man can have an instant crush, though, with time, one could develop feelings, which does not happen in the book.

Angel and Birdie

Birdie’s chapter was the one I was always waiting for. Because of Angel and their roommate dynamics. They got the strangers to roommates to move to Spain together arc. Angel, who is the escort, is the best part of the book. What happened to her is sad.

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner quotes

Do I recommend Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner?

I am confused about this one. I like bits of the story and do not regret reading it. But also, it is not something I would have read if I knew it would be like this.

So, make up your mind after reading more reviews.

Book Summary
Persons Unknown

The second novel of DS Manon series Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner is fast paced, but in wrong direction, lacking the depth.


Author: Susie Steiner

Editor's Rating:

Faizan Fahim

Hello, welcome to this blog. Just writing reviews of the book I like. Also, favorite quotes, poetry, memes, sometimes other topics too, but always related to literature. So join me on Twitter to talk to me.

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