Murder Mile by Lynda La Plante - book review

Murder Mile by Lynda La Plant
Murder Mile by Lynda La Plant

It’s a busy year for Lynda La Plante, the Liverpudlian who became one of the UK’s most famous crime queens.

This talented author and screenwriter has revealed she is working on an exciting new series of books… and November sees the release of film director Steve McQueen’s movie Widows, based on La Plante’s original story which became an instant hit when it appeared as a thrilling ITV crime series in the 1980s.

In the meantime, fans are chomping at the bit to get their hands on her new Jane Tennison thriller, the fourth book in an all-action, breathtakingly authentic series which sees the legendary detective chief inspector of the award-winning Nineties TV series, Prime Suspect, making her way in a man’s world twenty years before she hit our screens.

These gripping prequels feature the fledgling high-flyer as a rookie London Met detective still finding her feet in a tough city rocked by social and political tensions, and a workplace dogged by everything from male chauvinism and blatant discrimination to homophobia and class snobbery.

In Murder Mile, the newly-promoted Detective Sergeant Tennison is on the hunt for a brutal serial killer as London reels under the economic and social chaos of the 1979 Winter of Discontent when widespread public sector strikes crippled the country.

It’s one of the coldest winters of the century and Tennison has been posted to Peckham CID, one of the capital’s toughest districts. On a freezing night in February, she is called to an alley in Peckham Rye, an area which used to be known as the ‘Golden Mile’ but now has a reputation for serious and violent crime.

Amongst the rubbish and rats is a young woman… she has been strangled with a cord but there is no clue to her identity in her handbag, just three buttons found close to her body.

Within twenty-four hours, just as the police are starting their investigations, another woman’s body is found in the boot of a car a short distance from Rye Lane in Peckham. She has been stabbed to death in a frenzied attack.

The only link between the two victims seems to be the location of the bodies but three days later another murder takes place in the same area. Press headlines are now screaming that a serial killer is on the loose in ‘Murder Mile’ and that police incompetence is hampering the investigation.

Tennison is under immense pressure to catch the killer before they strike again but she is working long hours with little sleep, and what she uncovers leaves her doubting her own mind…

La Plante is on a roll with these atmospheric prequel crime thrillers as the increasingly street-wise, stronger, more confident Jane Tennison finds a firmer footing and learns to speak her mind, although there is still an appealing vulnerability and insecurity that makes her intensely and credibly human.

This is a young, smart woman who works on both natural instinct and superior intellect in a tense, fast-moving plot peppered with dark humour, fascinating police and forensic detail, and a murder hunt that relies on good old-fashioned mobile and internet-free detective work.

In Murder Mile, we are swept back to London in the long cold winter of 1979, a time of economic crisis, mass strikes, power cuts and stinking streets full of uncollected rubbish as tensions mount and the police are under pressure to find a terrifying killer.

Brimming with Seventies nostalgia, danger and suspense, this exhilarating young Tennison series could well be heading for another Prime TV spot!

(Zaffre, hardback, £18.99)