Here's a different kind of thriller, of the sort often called "literary": Susie Steiner's Missing, Presumed follows British detective inspector Manon Bradshaw as she investigates the disappearance of Edith Hind, a university student from a well-off family.
But the book is much more than a detective thriller — it also takes a close look at its characters' personal lives. Steiner tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer, "What I very much wanted to do was to emulate what Kate Atkinson did in the Jackson Brodie mysteries, where there is all the propulsion of mystery — so there's that page-turning grit making you want to go back to it — but along with that is all the riffing and meandering and depth and relationship of a literary novel."
On detective inspector Manon Bradshaw
I see her as normal, and by that I mean miserable. She is 39. She's very good at her job, she's bright and she's very interested in her job — but she's very, very lonely. She's single and she longs to meet somebody and to have a family. And what runs alongside the mystery in Missing, Presumed is also the ups and downs of her personal life, and in particular the tribulations of Internet dating, which she finds particularly miserable, as a lot of people do, I think.
On the novel's victim, Edith Hind
In some ways, Edith is the polar opposite of Manon. She's all glossy surface and she's rather perfect. She's studying at Cambridge, which has this rarified atmosphere, and she comes from a very well-connected family — her father is surgeon to the royal family — and they're very rich and seemingly successful. But underneath that are other undercurrents. And in a sense, Manon — who's a bit of a mess and who is crying a lot in the second floor toilets — appears to be diametrically opposed to Edith. But I think other things are revealed in the course of the novel about surfaces and about appearance.
On the challenge of ending a thriller and deciding how many clues to give your readers
Endings are enormously difficult. You've thrown all this stuff into the air and you're trying to bring it all in to land in a way that is satisfying but is not so fictional that it appears too tidy or too unrealistic. And that's a very difficult thing to do. I'm a huge rewriter, so I do draft upon draft upon draft, and that provides an opportunity to backlay clues. So there was an awful lot of putting clues in, taking them out again, putting them back in, worrying it was then obvious. It's a difficult thing not to let people know on page 10 who did it, you know. And that's a delicate balance because the reader wants to be co-sleuth — that's part of the joy — but also not to work it out too early.
On whether this book is the beginning of a series
There's certainly another one which is in its final stages. I can't really say more than that because it could all change. But Manon doesn't change. Manon is there.