Jane Tennison has made it to a Detective Sergeant by the time Murder Mile begins, although being 1979 she is known as WDS just in case anybody should be any doubt that she is female. The widespread strikes that occurred in the ‘Winter of Discontent’ mean that rubbish is piling up in the streets and the rats are becoming brave. All is quiet on the night shift though until an unidentified woman is found dead, amidst the rubbish on the streets of Peckham, a less than desirable area of London.
I love this series which takes us back to Jane Tennison’s earliest years. The fairly well-to-do young woman who defied her mother to become a policewoman instead of making a desirable marriage always had the spark of the woman we know she became (through the TV series Prime Suspect) but she is raw, prone to thinking and talking far too much for her junior rank, and most crucially being female in what was very much a man’s world.
By 1979 she has been promoted and is fairly established, now the sexism is less overt, but not by any means eliminated but although these elements are not only present, but absolutely fascinating, fortunately the author has remembered that readers of crime fiction want a solid mystery to solve as well as enlightenment about the (relatively) recent social history.
So we have one dead body which despite some elementary mistakes made during securing the crime scene, is quickly promoted to a murder. With Jane forgoing sleep to secure herself a place on the investigation team she follows a lead. Where it takes her has trouble written all over it in very large letters. Alluding to interference from the Masons many of whom she knows to be in the police force, has Jane learnt how to hold her tongue at the right time.
There have recently been a few debates on crime fiction series in the book blogger world, and here we have an acclaimed writer making the most of the form by using it to develop her character. This character development is all the more believable because we know the finished article so to speak.
Having started with a fairly meek young woman, by this, book four in the series we have a far more firm and decisive woman, one who is no longer so easily put off her stride by her peers and is learning that no matter how brilliant her deductive skills, policework depends on an entire team. That tightrope is now being walked a little more carefully by the young detective.
Great characters can only take us so far in crime fiction though and of course in the hands of such an assured writer as Lynda La Plante the reader is guaranteed a solid plot, fairly told with enough red herrings to keep those brain cells ticking over and evaluating the facts while the clues unfold at a pace that feels natural to the background investigation. In fact, everything I look for in my crime fiction.
I’d like to thank the publishers Bonnier Zaffre for allowing me to read an advance review copy of Murder Mile which will be published on 23 August 2018. Not a book to be missed for those who enjoy a trip back to the past alongside good quality crime fiction.
Previous Books in the Tennison Series
Tennison: Prime Suspect 1973