The great thing about having friends who are bloggers is that occasionally they have spare proofs lying around and are very generous in sharing them. I’m very lucky to be a member of the blogger’s group the Squad Pod Collective, they’re a great group of ladies and we all support each other so much. There are often spare, or unwanted, proofs trundling back and forth to each other through the post. However, this time I was lucky enough to receive a bundle of spares from a blogger more local to me and I’ve been sitting on them waiting for the New Year. I planned to take a lot less blog tours and read more by choice in 2022, because I’m back at university and didn’t want to become overwhelmed. Not that I’m finding it easy, especially when the siren song of blog tour organisers drifts into my inbox almost daily. I’m taking half the tours I did last year, which averages at about one a week. The bonus is that when I’m feeling frazzled with my uni reading I can read something really escapist or more gentle to offset the tension. Luckily for me, in my friend’s big box of books, was the latest crime novel featuring one of my all-time favourite fictional characters in books and television – Jane Tennison.
Starting with the eponymous Tennison back in 2015, Unholy Murder is the seventh novel in the Prime Suspect 1973 series. As prolific as ever, Lynda La Plante is delivering one of these novels per year and I’ve found it fascinating to watch the character we’re used to watching as a Detective Inspector, starting out in uniform and learning the ropes. This novel finds Jane as DS Tennison and embroiled in the case of a body found on a building society, in a coffin. The grounds where the developer is digging foundations used to belong to a convent that burned down a couple of decades earlier. The inhabitant of the strange metal coffin is dressed modestly, and her hands are entwined with both a crucifix and a rosary. So it would seem that the victim could be a nun. Who would kill a nun? The investigation will place Jane between developers keen to restart work and get the money rolling and a secretive Catholic diocese, desperate to sweep any evidence under the carpet. Not only is she concerned about finding the killer so many years later, but will she even be able to identify her?
I remember watching Prime Suspect as a very young teenager and I really admired Tennison. She was tough, clever and able to hold her own in a room full of men. I wanted to be a professional too, as good at my job as Tennison is. I even thought of being a police officer, but when it came to it I couldn’t meet the height restriction which was 5 feet and 5 inches back in the early 1990s. I loved her ability to read people, profile them psychologically and question them until they cracked. Of course if you asked my little brother why I used to love watching Prime Suspect he’d say because we were both bossy, but often bossy is a term used to silence ambitious women who are only giving orders. I was interested in the gender politics of the series, the way male officers would deride and try to undermine Tennison was shocking. The old boys network was working overtime, to wrong foot her and get her removed, especially if she had been made their superior. To me she was the first feminist character I’d really noticed in a lead role in a prime time tv series and i was inspired by that. She was also sexy, not afraid of asking for what she wanted in a partner. I couldn’t remember seeing a woman who was open and unapologetic in this way, even about one night stands. It was relationships she struggled with, finding that men wanted to be more important than the job. She was constantly apologising for not working regular hours, for not being available for family events and not being the little woman at home.
The great thing about these prequel novels is that we go back even further, to when a policewoman’s uniform included a matching handbag – useful for filling with stones and hitting criminals I guess. Jane is trying to make her mark, studying for her inspector’s exam and impressing the right people. The problem is that when she tries to impress she often goes off alone, takes unnecessary risks and leaves colleagues feeling that she’s holding out on them, to keep the best information to herself. Here she takes risks by befriending the parish priest and passing on a little more information than she should. She also keeps back something she’s seen because it doesn’t fit the way the investigation is heading, she wants to check it out for herself first. This puts her in considerable danger, as do her dating choices. The story of what has transpired in the old convent is harrowing, but believable and the author explores what happens when an institution cares more about it’s reputation than the truth. This should be scandalous, but seems very realistic, as is the reaction of Jane’s superior officer who has come up against the Catholic Church before. I am a Catholic and there was one detail that confused me. The nun in the coffin is Sister Melissa, but nuns would usually take saints names. I was taught by Sister Joan, Sister Anne and Sister Stephen (which at seven years old was incredibly funny). It’s a small thing, but these things jar in an otherwise well put together tale. I truly enjoyed the plot and spending time with a character I’ve known for a very long time. I would definitely recommend all of the Tennison series, for great storylines and the fascination of watching such a successful woman taking her first steps into the police force.
Meet The Author
Lynda’s latest book, Tennison, was published on 24th September 2015 and is the prequel the highly acclaimed Prime Suspect. The story charts Jane Tennison’s entry into the police force as a 22 year old Probationary Officer at Hackney Police Station in 1973.
Lynda La Plante is published in the UK by Simon & Schuster.
Lynda La Plante is published in the US by HarperCollins Publishers.
Please visit http://www.lyndalaplante.com for further information. You can also follow Lynda on Facebook and Twitter.