Taste of Blood by Lynda La Plante: A must read for all Tennison fans – book review –

After requesting a transfer from the pressures of her post in the busy West End of London to a station nearer home, Detective Inspector Jane Tennison is already fearful that she has made a big mistake.
Taste of Blood by Lynda La PlanteTaste of Blood by Lynda La Plante
Taste of Blood by Lynda La Plante

Disillusioned with her career to the point of half-heartedly considering quitting her job with the Met – and worried about the lack of a shared interest with her live-in builder fiancé Eddie Myers – Jane feels at a crossroads in her life... until a seemingly small-town domestic crime turns into something bigger than anyone could have imagined.

Lynda La Plante’s gripping series – charting the legendary detective chief inspector of the award-winning Nineties TV series, Prime Suspect, making her way in a man’s world long before she hit our screens – has been garnering an army of readers and accolades.

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The Liverpudlian who became one of the UK’s most famous crime queens, La Plante is something of a legend herself having recently added the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association’s Diamond Dagger for a lifetime contribution to crime writing to an array of awards and honours.

Taste of Blood is the ninth and penultimate book in her nostalgia-packed series which features Tennison’s early years in the police force, and while it can easily be read as a standalone, it would be a shame to miss all the retro entertainment when you can enjoy Tennison’s career from day one by reading this nostalgia-packed series in sequence.

And nowhere is this talented author and screenwriter more at home than in the company of her much-loved creation, Jane Tennison, as we reel back time to join the tenacious detective still finding her feet in the tough, male-dominated world of late 1980s London policing.

After her move to a quiet corner of south-east London, Detective Inspector Tennison is wondering if any serious crimes are ever committed in peaceful, suburban Bromley. Even her private life is not looking rosy... fiancé Eddie is a caring and good-natured man but the reality is that they don’t have a lot in common.

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The thought of dealing with nothing but petty crime investigations makes her question remaining in the force, particularly when the first case she is assigned to involves nothing more dramatic than an altercation between neighbours over a disputed property boundary in a private close of houses.

But this domestic assault is more complicated than it first appears and might still result in a murder charge. The victim is a man called Martin Boon who was hit in the face with a spade by angry neighbour David Caplan and he is still unconscious in hospital.

Jane’s new boss is pressuring her to wrap up the warring neighbours dispute as quickly as possible but something in the apparently trivial case doesn’t add up. Jane senses a sinister underbelly to her investigation... why was Martin Boon so adamant that David Caplan shouldn’t install a new set of gates when they wouldn’t even encroach on his own property?

Against the boss’s orders, Jane decides to dig deeper and soon uncovers a hoard of dark secrets in sleepy Clarendon Court involving a tragic death and a forbidden love affair. As she hunts for the missing piece of evidence that will identify a vicious killer, she knows that this case will either make her career... or break it.

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Each story in this cracking early Tennison series opens a window on to Jane’s sometimes faltering, but always fascinating, rise from uncertain raw rookie to the hard-headed and totally assured chief inspector who ran her police team with a sharp brain and an iron fist in Prime Suspect.

And as this stunningly imagined and created series builds up momentum for the final outing – Whole Life Sentence, which will be published in July – Jane gets her first taste of detection using one of the forensic tools that will transform police work... DNA.

Once more, Jane must employ her skills, acumen and inbuilt female wisdom in what is still very much a man’s world to work against orders and uncover the truth behind a case with dark and disturbing domestic undertones.

As always, La Plante’s stunning police procedural, complex, multi-layered plotting, and richly detailed character portrayals, are the best in the business, and her fine line in sardonic humour and no-nonsense Eighties-style policing are the icing on another delicious slice of top-notch crime writing.

Immaculately researched, with clues and mystery aplenty, and with the prospect of a final exhilarating ride in summer, this is a must read for all Tennison fans!

(Zaffre, paperback, £9.99)

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