Book review: Buried by Lynda LaPlante

Thursday, May 21, 2020 Permalink

I adore Lynda LaPlante’s Prime Suspect series, along with her ‘young’ Jane Tennison prequels (set in the 1970s) so was excited to see her new release Buried – kicking off a brand new series.

Here we’re introduced to Detective Jack Warr. He’s a bit of an unlikely lead character: he’s not really ambitious and somewhat ambivalent about his career in the Met’s Serious Crimes Squad though many would probably envy the opportunity.

His team is presented with a case however, that intrigues him a little. Even more so when it seems to have personal links to his own family history.

Book review: Buried by Lynda LaPlanteBuried
by Lynda La Plante
Series: DC Jack Warr #1
Published by Zaffre
on 02/04/2020
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
ISBN: 1838770348, 9781838770341
Pages: 400

DC Jack Warr and his girlfriend Maggie have just moved to London to start a new life together. Though charming, Jack can't seem to find his place in the world - until he's drawn into an investigation that turns his life upside down.

In the aftermath of a fire at an isolated cottage, a badly charred body is discovered, along with the burnt remains of millions of stolen, untraceable bank notes.

Jack's search leads him deep into a murky criminal underworld - a world he finds himself surprisingly good at navigating. But as the line of the law becomes blurred, how far will Jack go to find the answers - and what will it cost him?

I really enjoyed this novel but must confess I wasn’t (and am still not) overly enamoured by Jack.

LaPlante does an amazing job—as usual—at putting we readers in his head and we’re given insight into his thoughts, feelings and actions. And she (and he therefore, obviously) is brutally honest about his lack of ambition and minimal ‘care factor’ as the novel opens. Indeed his boss, DCI Simon Ridley who’s given him a chance in the Met’s Serious Crime Squad is disappointed by Jack’s lack of interest in the cases he’s working and fact he’s essentially going through the motions.

We spend a bit of time with Jack’s partner Maggie. The narrative doesn’t really unfold via her point of view but we’re privy to her thoughts at times. We really only get insight into her character in terms of her relationship to Jack than getting to know her individually and I would have liked more of the latter… though there’s a promise of that.

Weirdly I really liked a couple of the other characters introduced (and by weirdly, I mean… MORE THAN JACK!). We spend a little time with a Fire Investigation Officer (Sally) who seemed kinda interesting but disappeared prematurely. And we meet DI Martin Prescott who tells bad dad jokes. I thought he might play a larger role as La Plante adds some texture by including the fact he is mildly dyslexic so doesn’t take notes in public. And finally there’s the more uptight DCI Ridley, Jack’s direct supervisor and a couple of Jack’s colleagues (including a rival for a promotion).

There were definitely times I wasn’t that fond of Jack. And I’m sure I wasn’t being too judgemental or unfair so suspect LaPlante intended Jack to be seen in a certain light. And in many ways he knows his behaviour is less-than desirable, but goes there anyway.

I wondered for a while if LaPlante was going to make this an interrelated series, so rather than focus on one character, have each book focus on a different team member (like Mick Herron’s Slow Horses series). My antipathy toward Jack was / is interesting. I usually don’t mind the antihero and read a lot of books featuring rather psychotic but still likeable or engaging leads. They usually have some weird system of values or honour they serve.

I should mention you have to suspend disbelief at the coincidence of Jack’s own history being wrapped up in the Squad’s current case, and of course the question is whether he’s suddenly more engaged and committed to the job because of that.

The flipside of course is Jack trying to straddle the pursuit of his own interests, those of the case, and still have time to deal with some personal crises.

LaPlante sets up a complex and interesting plot here. I actually enjoyed the prologue and would have been happy to spend more time dipping into past events. Again she’s committed to strong female characters. Even though the police players are all male, we’re offered an eclectic group of female ex-cons, a besotted colleague of Jack’s along with the impressive Maggie.

LaPlante has set this series up in a way that has me hooked and I’m intrigued as to where she’ll take it. I’d love to see more of a focus on Jack’s likeable and kinda quirky colleagues and… though I can’t say too much, it ends with changes afoot for Jack and Maggie.

Buried by Lynda LaPlante was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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