Review: Tennison by Lynda La Plante

Tuesday 20 October 2015
Title: Tennison
Author: Lynda La Plante
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date: 24th September 2015
Pages: 400
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon
From the creator of the award-winning ITV series Prime Suspect, starring Helen Mirren, comes the fascinating back story of the iconic DCI Jane Tennison. 

In 1973 Jane Tennison, aged 22, leaves the Metropolitan Police Training Academy to be placed on probationary exercise in Hackney where criminality thrives. We witness her struggle to cope in a male-dominated, chauvinistic environment, learning fast to deal with shocking situations with no help or sympathy from her superiors. Then comes her involvement in her first murder case.

Lynda La Plante to me is the Queen of Crime and I am yet to be disappointed with one of her books. I have a real soft spot for Anna Travis but the news that Lynda would be returning to one of the genre's greatest ever characters, the fantastic Jane Tennison, was very exciting indeed. I was even more excited about this prequel because I love reading about the history of London, and Jane is such a fascinating character that I couldn't wait to read about her early days as a police officer. It was a refreshing change to read a crime fiction story not set in the present day, and it was an especially nice change for what is such a saturated and repetitive genre.

Tennison is wonderfully researched, and I immediately got a real sense of the time and place that the story is set. As Jane walks the Hackney streets, so do we. I am passionate about the East End of London and have enjoyed witnessing the changes to the area over the years. I am from an area in Liverpool not dissimilar to parts of the East End and so could relate to some of the characters and their stories throughout Tennison.

It was wonderful to witness a young, less confident Jane Tennison who became a police officer at a time when it wasn't the norm. Or even accepted by the majority and Jane soon faces criticism from both her fellow officers and her family (who I found extremely irritating for the most part but whose inclusion into the story helped endear me to Jane more, and understand the attitudes towards female officers at that time). Jane is still the fierce and headstrong woman we know and love but at the same time she is incredibly naive about crime and the people that commit it, and it was fascinating to witness that. From the first time she faced issues at work I wanted her to succeed especially in the face of some quite obnoxious and sexist male officers.

In terms of policing I think that there is something to be said for that 'old school' style of policing. Certain negative aspects of it are now thankfully a thing of the past but in terms of things like the level of paperwork and rule books that must be followed today, I think police officers in the past had greater sway than they do today and I felt that this really came across throughout the story. On the other side of that however is that negative aspect, starting with the sexism that we witness early on in the book. As a seasoned crime fiction reader I have often said in the past that some of my favourite detectives to read about are females, and so it was interesting to read a story like Tennison where women police officers are not the norm, never mind women officers in authority.

As someone who usually reveals more than I should about the story in my reviews I won't talk about it too much but I think it was really relevant for the time - rampant with sexism, cover-ups and all of those criminal elements that you would expect from the East End at that time. The investigation moves at a fair pace in the beginning, with just the right amount of red herrings and I must admit I failed to work out a couple of the twists revealed throughout the book. In fact with a major one I had to go back and remind myself of who a particular character was! All of the characters come to life on the page and I very quickly had a couple of favourites. Not all of the male characters are detestable sexist pigs and there's a couple that really help Jane settle into the force. Later in the story I was left a little bit shell-shocked by some of the events and, dare I say it, found myself getting pretty emotional. I very quickly became attached to the characters in Tennison and I wasn't expecting some of the thrilling twists that come in the story. It is an incredibly poignant story in places and readers who have met Jane Tennison before will really get to see a completely different side to her, and finish the story understanding her history a lot more.

What I particularly enjoyed is that the characters aren't perfect. Jane Tennison is far from being this superhero police officer that gets everything right or puts one over on her superiors. I loathe those books which are women versus men with the men coming off looking ridiculous. Instead, Jane does make mistakes and it is very much a learning process for her throughout the whole book and it's believable because of that and you know that Jane's story is indicative of everything that female officers faced when first starting out on the force. It's a real character study and a brutal but believable picture of that time and this is a book that I won't finish and put aside forever, but rather return to time and time again because it really was that good. Tennison will shortly become a TV series to celebrate 25 years of Prime Suspect and I for one cannot wait. Some of the scenes in this book will really lend themselves well to the small screen whether it's with some of the spectacular scenes or some of the cliffhangers you can expect to see at the end of each installment. Tennison is one of the best crime fiction books I have read in 2015 and I predict it will be one of the best TV dramas of 2016.

1 comment:

  1. I really need to read this Shaun, thanks for a great review :D



Copyright © 2014 Book Addict Shaun
Template by These Paper Hearts