Book review: Good Friday by Lynda La Plante

Monday, August 28, 2017 Permalink

Lynda La Plante’s Tennison was one of my favourite books when released in 2015. It’s basically the backstory of Jane Tennison – the ‘take no shit’ senior detective / chief inspector whatzit from her popular Prime Suspect books and the (equally popular) TV series based on those books (starring Helen Mirren).

Set in the early 1970s, Tennison, Hidden Killers, and now Good Friday, focus around the early years of Jane… after she first joins the police force. Obviously the sexist attitudes and prejudice she experiences in the Prime Suspect series (kicking off in the early 1990s) is nothing compared to the attitudes of many two decades earlier… but the resilient and resourceful young Jane doesn’t let that stand in her way.

Book review: Good Friday by Lynda La PlanteGood Friday
by Lynda La Plante
Series: Tennison #3
Published by Allen & Unwin AU
on August 23rd 2017
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
ISBN: 9781785763281
Pages: 377

On the way to court one morning, Jane passes through Covent Garden Underground station and is caught up in a bomb blast that leaves several people dead, and many horribly injured. Jane is a key witness, but is adamant that she can't identify the bomber. When a photograph appears in the newspapers, showing Jane assisting the injured at the scene, it puts her and her family at risk from IRA retaliation.

Good Friday' is the eagerly awaited date of the annual formal CID dinner, due to take place at St Ermin's Hotel. Hundreds of detectives and their wives will be there. It's the perfect target. As Jane arrives for the evening, she realises that she recognises the parking attendant as the bomber from Covent Garden. Can she convince her senior officers in time, or will another bomb destroy London's entire detective force?

I find the backcover blurb a little misleading on this one. Anther version I checked out was very much the same. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it implies Jane and her colleagues kinda see the big picture long before they do. Which they don’t.

When we again meet Jane she’s now a detective and though her new boss is kinda supportive she’s basically doing grunt work. She aspires to join the Flying Squad – a boys-only arrogant bunch who investigate armed robberies across London. Her boss offers her a stepping stone however on the ‘Dip Squad’ a similar group, though less prestigious, targetting pickpockets.

Jane’s really only on the job briefly when she literally stumbles across the terrorist attack. It’s not the first time in these books that Jane’s in the right place at the right time (for most of us that would be wrong place, wrong time) and somehow ends up embroiled in a high profile case. It is however Jane’s doggedness and determination (yes, same thing but the sentence sounded better with two words and some alliteration! 😉 ) which sees them catch a break. Having said that, there’s also still a naivety which has long disappeared before we later meet her as a DCI.

There’s probably less focus on the ‘boys club’ thing in this novel, though more on Jane’s personal life… in terms of buying her own flat (practically unheard of then I gather) and the challenges she has in trusting those around her. And there are a few love interests floating about for good measure.

I’ve said in my other reviews that La Plante obviously knows her creation well and she manages to give us a likeable young woman who could, but doesn’t, play coy or use her wiles to make it in a man’s world… she’s smart, motivated and well…. though less confident than she will be in 20 years time, takes no shit.

I’ve mentioned in my review of Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series (set in 1980s Ireland) that, though I grew up understanding the vague threat IRA terrorists offered (England, more specifically) it was something I’d almost forgotten. I know there’s often debate now – the fact that many tend to demonise all from the Middle East or Muslims because of the actions of a tiny few; that the same bastardisation of Catholics didn’t happen during the IRA’s years of attacks. Of course, I realise it’s impossible to compare and I am far from an expert on the topic… nevertheless, I find I’m appreciating some of these books, set in our not-too-distant past, providing us with a bit of a history lesson – albeit swathed in an entertaining guise.

In the previous books in this series my main concern or criticism has been around the fact that La Plante’s included two plots. (Though it was less of an issue in the second in the series than the first.) It doesn’t really happen this time around, though the case Jane is initially working on remains in the periphery a little. And in reality there are a lot of threads at play in the bombing, so we’re kept busy piecing those together.

I’m loving early / young Jane and think La Plante is doing a good job of building her into the detective and character we later meet. Of course there’s still a fragility and innocence to this Jane and we’re slowly learning why older Jane – though perhaps still retaining some of that sensitivity – has a hardened and bristly shell.

Good Friday by Lynda La Plante was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.

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


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