Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Prime Suspect Series - Lynda La Plante

British television series are incredibly popular at the library. I was familiar with Lynda La Plante's name as she is responsible for many of the much watched series check outs - including the first three episodes of the hit Prime Suspect. (originally starring Helen Mirren) I jumped at the chance to read the books.

The Prime Suspect books were all written in the early 1990's when high ranking policewomen were not the norm. Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison debuted in Prime Suspect.

Tennison has risen through the ranks, but has hit a brick wall (or a glass ceiling). She's on the homicide squad, but has yet to lead an investigation - until the Della Mornay case. Della is a sex trade worker, found stabbed to death by her landlady. Jane is determined to find the killer and prove that she is just as good as any man at the job. And indeed she is - or better. But the 'old boys' club is just as determined to keep her 'in her place.' Jane is not a character I immediately warmed to. Her ambition drives her at all costs, including her personal life.  She comes across as impersonal and cold at work, but it's necessary to try and gain the respect of the men she is leading. La Plante has created some particularly nasty cops for Tennison to lead - especially Otley. He does anything and everything to thwart her, including hiding evidence, sending her on wild goose chases and trash talking her. But I found myself warming up to her as the book progressed and respecting her determination to solve the cases. I preferred this persona to the personal glimpses of home life. La Plante's plotting is excellent; the mystery was believable. Once the 'prime suspect' is identified, the race is on to prove the case. Read an excerpt.

I was eager to see where Jane was in the second book Prime Suspect 2: A Face in the Crowd. Jane has earned the respect of her immediate squad, but the politicos still don't want her in charge. When a body is found buried in a backyard in a poor district in London, tension ratchets up. The residents of the district are predominantly black and the police don't have a good record with them. This time round Jane must battle not just the higher ups that want things hushed up, but the racism that rears it's ugly head in the squad room. Jane is still attempting to have a bit of a personal life, but it backfires on her with serious consequences. Again, excellent plotting. The characters are all well drawn, like them or not and Jane is starting to grow on me. The dialogue and situations spring to life, reading easily. Read an excerpt.

Prime Suspect 3: Silent Victims finds Jane in charge of the Vice Squad. A 'rent boy' is found burned to death in the apartment of a drag queen nightclub star. But this time when Jane identifies her 'prime suspect', she's in dangerous waters. A powerful public figure is the man behind the killings of young male prostitutes. And no change, the higher ups want this one hushed up at all costs. And the price could be very high this time - all Jane has worked for is on the line. Does she choose ambition or justice? La Plante excels at creating situations and characters that just make you want to shout out loud. Read an excerpt.

Now that I've read the books, I think I'll be the next patron checking out the DVD series. I want to see Mirren's portrayal of Jane Tennison. My opinion of Jane changed from book one to book three. She still isn't likable and really, it wouldn't work if she was. But her intellect and her sense of justice shine through, despite her unwavering ambition. These are the first La Plante books I've read and I really quite enjoyed them. La Plante has a number of other series - the Anna Travis books look good. See what others on the TLC tour thought - full schedule here.


bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a fantastic series!

trish said...

"She still isn't likable and really, it wouldn't work if she was." Interesting! As I was reading your review, I was wondering how the character would play out in a screenplay. I'll be interested to see what you think.

Thanks for being on the tour!