Book Review: Wrongful Death by Lynda la Plante

My Rating:              3 / 5
Format:                   Paperback courtesy of The Reading Room
Publication Date:    September 2013
Category:               Crime Thriller
ISBN:                      9781471125836
Publisher:               Simon & Schuster
RRP:                      AU$29.99
Extent:                    512 pages

The Blurb

"Six months ago, London nightclub owner Josh Reynolds was found dead from a single gunshot wound to the head, the gun held in his right hand.  His death was quickly determined to be a suicide, the investigation was closed ... a case done and dusted.

A young man, awaiting trial for armed robbery has informed his guards that Reynolds was murdered, and that he has information to share with the police.  DCS James Langton tasks DCI anna Travis to review the case.  As soon as she wraps up the investigation, Langton tells Anna, she can join him at the FBI Academy in Virginia for training.

Meanwhile, Senior FBI Agent, Jessie Dewar, Crime Scene Expert, is seconded to Anna's team as part of her research.  Dewar's brash manner soon ruffles feathers among the MET, and what should have been a simple case of tying up loose ends becomes a political nightmare as the competence of the original investigation team is questioned.

Anna's trip to America is approaching, but now that the situation at the MET has become so volatile, can she trust Dewar to finish the job in her absence?"

Summary and Thoughts

Six months previously, Josh Harrison’s demise was ruled a suicide. Now, one of Harrison’s former colleagues, currently in prison, has claimed that he has information which threatens to turn that ruling on its head.

When DCI Anna Travis, fresh from a holiday, arrives at their new headquarters and goes into a briefing headed by DCS James Langton, her and the team are informed that they are going to be re-opening the Harrison case due to new information which has come to light and that an FBI agent and profiler, Jessie Dewar, has been seconded to their unit for work experience and will be working closely with Anna.

Anna has her own reservations about re-opening what appears to be an open and shut suicide case, believing that it is what it appears to be, but as they begin to sift through the little evidence they have, Jessie begins to raise issues and make observations about the crime scene and the initial investigation being compromised and Anna finds herself second-guessing everything, with no hard and fast answers to the questions being raised. When she finally does, it becomes apparent that what should have been a homicide investigation has been marred by incompetence.

Trying desperately to wrap up the case before she heads off to attend a course at Quantico, the FBI Academy in America, Anna suddenly finds herself in a position where she has to make an extremely difficult decision - whether to leave her somewhat inexperienced nemesis in charge of the Harrison investigation or forgo a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

I have never read a Lynda la Plante book before (although I believe that this is the ninth book in her Anna Travis series) and while I didn’t fail to connect with Anna, who I found to be hard-working and tenacious in her investigations with a wonderful rapport between her and her team members, I did have a bit of difficulty stringing together references from cases which have obviously been covered in the preceding novels as well as getting a good feel for her other lead characters, such as DCS James Langton, to name but one.

I also found the length and descriptive nature of the core investigation to be a bit tedious, particularly in the first half of the book, but as I got further in, it did seem to pick up pace and I enjoyed reading about Anna’s time at Quantico, finding the cold-case she was assigned as part of her training, quite interesting.

Regarding Jessie Dewar, her character is strong and cleverly written, although somewhat unlikeable with her arrogance and attitude towards Anna, and this immediately raised my hackles, not only because Anna has so much more experience than her, but because she, on the other hand, is so likeable, respected amongst her colleagues and has a very good work ethic. That being said though, this is what an author does to make their book more interesting, and in creating Jessie’s strength of character and her drive, Lynda has not failed to do this, thus adding some excitement to a narrative which I otherwise found quite slow at times. 

It is quite obvious that Ms la Plante has a profound knowledge of the workings of the British criminal justice system and the differences between this and the American system comes across quite clearly through Anna and Jessie’s characters. The interrogation scenes were well done and the finale totally unexpected.

All in all, this was a good read albeit not the best I have had the pleasure of reading, but for those who enjoy Lynda la Plante's work or British police procedurals on the whole, this is one I wouldn’t overlook and I wish to thank The Reading Room for providing me with a hard copy of this novel.

A Little About the Author (taken from Simon & Schuster's website)

Lynda La Plante bestowed John Moores University with a creative writing scholarship in her hometown of Liverpool and is an honorary member of the British Film Institute. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has also awarded Lynda with the Dennis Potter Writers Award. She was awarded a CBE in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours List (for services to Literature, Drama and to Charity), and was presented with the prestigious TV Spielfilm Award for her television adaptation of her novel Above Suspicion at the International Film and Television Festival Conference in Cologne. In 2009 Lynda was inducted into the Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame. Her novels have all been international bestsellers.


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