Jane Tennison is the only female Detective Chief Inspector in the murder squad at Scotland Yard, and the old boys club isn't any too happy about it. They've managed to keep her out of the murder investigations so far, but when Detective Chief Inspector John Shefford dies of a massive heart attack, there's no option but to let Tennison take over the investigation of a murdered prostitute. What Shefford's team was touting as an open-and-shut case turns out to be far more than that. Tennison finds holes in the investigation and the team is forced to release their prime suspect. But Tennison is bound and determined to close this case and securely nail the guilty party, no matter what it might cost her personally.
Lynda La Plante makes a bold statement with PRIME SUSPECT. Not only is she portraying a woman who has to battle the "old boys school" of law enforcement, she's portraying an ambitious woman trying to climb the ladder. And that character isn't always the most lovable character. As readers we want to see a lot of the stereotypes our society reinforces: the female "fixer" who makes everyone happy, the discreet affair between a male and female in the department that makes everything work out in the end. Tennison doesn't have any of that. She has aspirations of where she wants to go in her career. Standing in her way, she has a department that will fight her over her ambition and a significant other that doesn't understand or support those aspirations when it isn't convenient for him.
There were times when I wanted to throttle Tennison. "Really? You're making that choice?" But as I digested it more I realized those choices made her deliciously human. I have a list of decisions a mile long that I look back on now: they seemed like the right choices at the time, but now all I can say is, "what WAS I thinking?"
I appreciate La Plante's willingness to portray the no-always-so-likable female climber. I'm not sure I'd want to work with Tennison, but I can appreciate her struggles. The other underlying implication is the hypocrisy of the system. La Plante does a fine job of intimating it, without letting it interrupt the plot.
The plot of PRIME SUSPECT is tight and well-developed. La Plante builds anticipation with each chapter and keeps the pace moving swiftly.
Not much has been changed in the way of local colloquialism. I found myself having to figure out some phrases and idioms that are not common in the U.S., but that also lent itself to appropriate atmosphere.
I enjoyed PRIME SUSPECT and look forward to following Jane Tennison on to her next appearance in La Plante's series.
PRIME SUSPECT was originally published in the UK in 1991. It has been re-released this year in the U.S. in trade paper (ISBN: 978-0062134370) by Harper Collins.
My review is part of a TLC blog tour for the PRIME SUSPECT three-book series. You can see other reviews and their thoughts on the books by checking the TLC tour page.