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#BookReview of Prime Suspect by Lynda La Plante

  22 May 2020 |    3 minutes  |   Paul Mitchell

Book cover fot Prime Suspect by Lynda La Plante

Title:  Prime Suspect
Author:  Lynda La Plante
Date Published:  3 Jan, 2013
Genre:  Police Procedural
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Ltd
ISBN:  9781471100215
Series:  Prime Suspect #1
Pages:  352
Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐


(Blurb for Prime Suspect From Goodreads) In the dark night of the soul . . . . If Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison hadn’t been a woman, she might not have noticed the victim’s shoes . . . . and that they didn’t match the size given on the info sheet now so obviously misidentifying the dead blonde as a hooker named Della Mornay. Being so through, so good at the details, made Jane a top investigator; being a woman made the boys in the squadron want to see her fall on her face.

But Jane Tennison was determined to catch the madman stalking women in London’s street shadows. She had a prime suspect, and she needed to make the charges against him stick. She also needed to keep her own secret in check: she couldn’t let anyone see that she was falling apart inside, as her obsession with cracking this case and breaking out from under the heel of the station house boy’s club took over life, destroying her relationship with the man she loved, pushing her closer and closer to the dark urges of a killer . . . .

My Review

Ah, the early ’90s… Sexual discrimination was still rife in several institutions even though Margaret Thatcher had just been Prime Minister. It seems that this included the Metropolitan Police according to Lynda La Plante.

A young woman has been murdered and Detective Chief Inspector Jack Shefford is given the case. Within hours, DNA evidence has pointed the finger at George Marlow. The suspect was recently released early from prison for the attempted assault and rape of another woman. Shefford and his team believe that they have got their man and begin the process of bringing him to justice.

Meanwhile, DCI Jane Tennison has been in court for the final throes of a tax fraud case. She has once again been overlooked by Superintendent Kernan. In a team of four DCIs, she is the only female and has been passed over time and again. Tennison is not happy and has raised this several times with Kernan.

When Shefford falls ill while reporting to Kernan, Tennison pushes to take over the case and (very) reluctantly he agrees as there is no one else. She initially struggles to win over the team, not helped by the fact that Shefford’s best friend Detective Sergeant Otley is intent on getting her thrown off the case.

So herein lies the crux of the story; Tennison a female DCI leading a predominantly male team who had a great affinity with the recently deceased Jack Shefford. Her boss is not convinced that a woman can lead a murder case so she is really up against it. We also need to remember that in the early ’90s, DNA evidence was in its infancy. Not all court cases resulted in convictions based purely on DNA evidence alone. So the case against Marlow was not cut and dry.


The Character of Jane Tennison is interesting. I can see why she was driven and could feel for her, but her badgering of Kernan to get the role after the death of Shefford was questionable. So I’m torn. On the other hand, George Marlow is a cracking character, he appears to have convinced himself that he has done nothing wrong and consistently claims to be innocent with a seemingly watertight alibi given by his common-law wife.

Final Thoughts

Given that I had watched the tv series many years ago, the book brought back a touch of nostalgia and I can still picture Helen Mirren in the title role of Jane Tennison. This, however, did not distract me from the story and I was still fully engrossed even though I knew the eventual outcome.

It’s still a good story…

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