Presumed Dead by Martin Knox is a crime mystery that almost has a feel of the “Perry Mason’s” about it. Jane Kenwood is a maverick local council politician who has been expelled from her party, which currently governs the city of Alexandra. She continues to frustrate and annoy her ex-colleagues on the Council by staying in politics and winning re-election as an Independent. When a Casino Proposal, requiring the demolishing of a heritage building, is presented to the City and supported by the ruling Council, Jane goes into attack mode to try and stop it and to propose an alternative use for the heritage listed building – a multicultural centre for the use of all the diverse ethnic needs of Alexandra’s citizens. When her colleagues, Dr Phillip Keane and her old friend Cutter, both cross the party floor to oppose the Casino, it suddenly seems like Jane may have mustered the support to defeat this proposal. But, then Jane goes missing and the hunt is on to find her abductors and/or murderers. Dr Keane, a former police forensic scientist takes the lead in the investigation of finding Jane. His incentive is Jane and he are lovers and he is desperate to recover her and destroy the perpetrators.
Presumed Dead is a classic “whodunit” and author Martin Knox does a very credible job of describing, in detail the investigative techniques of crime scene analysis that the character had developed in his years as a police forensic scientist. The story is well-constructed, with possible “red-herrings” thrown in at appropriate points. The two principal characters of Jane and Phillip are well drawn and easy to relate to and empathise with. It is interesting, that as in real life, Knox has sought to bring two people together in a romantic relationship that have polar opposite personalities. Jane, the firebrand extrovert with a passion for politics and Phillip the quiet, methodical, introvert who struggles to relate to people on a personal level. I particularly enjoyed the political undertones of the story and the ideals of what truly constitutes democracy. The idea of scrapping political parties and independent politicians voting on their conscience every time has been floated often and I think even trialled occasionally. It brings a real modern-day relevance to the story – one only needs to look at the political turmoil in the US at present to see the dangers of partisanship and party politics. All in all, a very satisfying read and one I can recommend.