Book review: The Dirty Dozen by Lynda La Plante

Monday, August 19, 2019 Permalink

It wasn’t until after I read this book (that) it occurred to me we can’t be that far from the Jane Tennison we eventually meet in the Prime Suspect series. Though I guess a decade is a lifetime in Jane’s world.

In the last book in this series Murder Mile, I commented that there seemed to be less sexist crap (misogynist bullshit I think I said) than in previous novels, but sadly her entry into the all-male Flying Squad, sees Jane yet again struggling with prejudice despite ‘integration’ seven years earlier.

Book review: The Dirty Dozen by Lynda La PlanteThe Dirty Dozen
by Lynda La Plante
Series: Tennison #5
Published by Zaffre
on August 20th 2019
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Police Procedural, Crime Fiction
ISBN: 1785768506, 9781785768507
Pages: 512

April 1980 and Jane is the first female detective to be posted to the Met's renowned Flying Squad, commonly known as the 'Sweeney'. Based at Rigg Approach in East London, they investigate armed robberies on banks, cash in transit and other business premises.

Jane thinks her transfer is on merit and is surprised to discover she is actually part of a short term internal experiment, intended to have a calming influence on a team that likes to dub themselves as the 'Dirty Dozen'.

The men on the squad don't think a woman is up to the dangers they face when dealing with some of London's most ruthless armed criminals, who think the only 'good cop' is a dead cop. Determined to prove she's as good as the men, Jane discovers from a reliable witness that a gang is going to carry out a massive robbery involving millions of pounds.

But she doesn't know who they are, or where and when they will strike . . .

Jane’s kinda dropped into it on her first day with the Sweeney (Flying Squad) and dragged along to a robbery in progress. Most of her new colleagues don’t know she’s starting and it doesn’t go down well. Of course Jane grits her teeth and bears it and (as usual) does excellent work making her hard to ignore.

Her confidence is shattered though when she learns she wasn’t chosen to join the Squad on merit, but rather because of recent investigations into corruption in police (Operation Countryman, a factual investigation in the late 1970s ); and, as she was the only female applicant, placed there on the assumption it would make them look good.

Jane’s had some tough cases in the past but is unaccustomed to proactively cultivating sources and dealing with ‘gangs’. So the world of the Flying Squad is all pretty new and takes some getting used to.

She’s determined to earn her place though and – from the outside looking in – does so easily and gets some grudging respect from her colleagues.

La Plante paces this book really well and the action just keeps coming. There was a slight detour for some family / personal stuff, but even I could see how much Jane’s grown and matured since she first joined the police six years earlier…. which was reflected in the way she and her family interact.

Similarly she’s evolving professionally; she’s always been dogged but there’s a sense of confidence emerging now.

I mentioned in my review of Murder Mile that I liked that LaPlante had focussed on only one case, rather than several separate (or eventually overlapping) cases. It’s the same here and I think the office politics and game playing provide enough additional texture for readers.

It’s interesting that Jane has moved into a new team in most of the novels in this series, so there’s no consistent work-related support cast, but it really doesn’t matter as Jane easily garners (and deserves) our focus. Initially here it felt like LaPlante had introduced a lot of new players and I wasn’t sure who was who for a while, but the important ones became familiar pretty quickly. I wonder if we’ll meet them again or Jane will have moved on by the next book in the series.

*Impatiently tapping fingers*

The Dirty Dozen by Lynda La Plante will be published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and available from 19 August 2019.

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


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