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Published January 3rd 2020
Before Prime Suspect There Was Tennison
It's 1973 in London, when flared pants were a fashion staple and Janis Joplin songs were on everyone's lips, as new probationary recruit Jane Tennison decides to embark on a career in the Metropolitan Police Force.
Photo courtesy World of Books
Stationed in the grimy, crime-ridden suburb of Hackney is not an easy place for a young probationer to learn the ropes as Jane is exposed to some of the East Ends worst drug addicts, lifetime criminals and murderers.
This isn't the only challenge. Add in the sexism, daily discriminatory and humiliating behaviours, chauvinistic comments and demeaning tasks given to her by her male superior officers and it's a tough learning environment.
But young Jane is intelligent, confident, slightly naive and hell-bent on becoming a fine police officer at a time with female integration into station life was only just beginning.
After creating this character structure of Jane, her loving and protective family and policing colleagues, the criminology of the story begins when the Station investigates two major concurrent crimes - the murder of a young, pregnant, female prostitute and drug addict as well as an intended bank robbery by a family of hardened criminals.
Jane is on the edge of both investigations and is unexpectedly thrown into the fire of detective work with her colleagues to help solve the ugly and devious crimes. She uses her instinct and bravery with a warm and vulnerable heart to become so likeable.
Crime is not normally my go-to genre when selecting a book of the shelves. But I have to admit that I was captivated by this whodunnit and over the 482 pages cheered for Jane as she battled the sexism of her station colleagues, hoped that her heart would be safe from the handsome Governor Len Bradfield and felt her safety as she forged a friendship with the headstrong and witty fellow officer, WPC Kath Morgan.
Lynda LaPlante gives extraordinary detail in the plot of the book to paint a vivid picture of the characters. We can imagine the officers speeding along the narrow streets and alleyways, piecing together information in a lower-tech age and almost smell the putrid stench of the morgue home to the recovered bodies awaiting autopsy.
The working-class slang of the cockney language comes through strongly in the text to reflect the setting.
It's not surprising that a book like Tennison has been converted to television. As Jane's character evolved and she rose to the rank of Detective Chief Inspector, she took on the lead in the BBC's Prime Suspect series starring accomplished British actress, Dame Helen Mirren in the title role.
About the Author - Lynda LaPlante Lynda La Plante is an internationally acclaimed bestselling UK author. La Plante was made a Companion of the British Empire in 2008 for services to Literature, Drama and Charity. She is a member of The Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame and is the only layperson to be made a fellow of The Forensic Science Society.
Tennison was released by Simon and Schuster in 2015.
Photo courtesy Lynda LaPlante.com.au
Tennison certainly whetted my appetite for British crime novels and Lynda LaPlante successfully converted me to seek out more of her long list of novels. Bring on more crime drama Jane Tennison. I'm ready.