Fri
Sep 8 2017 12:00pm

Review: Good Friday by Lynda La Plante

Good Friday by Lynda La Plante is a prequel story that tells the early days of the career of Jane Tennison before the events of Prime Suspect.

Welcome back, Jane Tennison! Good Friday explores the early days of Tennison’s career. In an author’s note, Lynda La Plante takes us back to the early ’70s when Londoners coped in their carry-on fashion to the constant threat of IRA bombings. “Both police and public lived in fear: where and when would the IRA strike, and could they be stopped in time?”

The ambitious Tennison is now a fully-fledged detective and is having a difficult time landing a spot in a good operation. She turns down one transfer and privately asks her boss, DCI Shepherd, if she can remain where she is.

Jane was in a catch-22 situation. Although Shepherd had agreed for her to remain with the CID at Bow Street, he gave her very little opportunity to prove herself and she was becoming increasingly frustrated.

A chance encounter with a colleague, DC Brian Edwards, riles her up even more. Edwards speaks with great enthusiasm about his role in the Flying Squad: “The adrenalin buzz when you nick an armed blagger on the pavement is incredible.” Translation: it’s a unit dedicated to “investigating armed robberies.” He’s rather insulting when he defends the lack of women on the Flying Squad, stating, “It’s tough work, Jane, and we get results.” Arrogance and chauvinism permeate his statement. Unsurprisingly, Jane decides to ask her boss for a transfer to the Flying Squad.

Shepherd laughed. ‘Tennison, with your length of service and experience there is absolutely no possibility of your being transferred to the Flying Squad. You are welcome to apply but I doubt the application would be taken seriously.’

Edith, the CID’s clerical officer, nails what’s happening to Jane.

‘As I keep telling you Jane, the Met really don’t like giving women the kudos they deserve. They’re old-school, and Shepherd is as well ... although he maintains he’s a forward thinker, in my opinion he plays by the rules—and those rules don’t include female detectives.’

Although Jane’s request to join the Flying Squad is turned down, Shepherd asks her if she’d be interested in joining a subdivision called the “Dip Squad”—the target of their investigations are professional pickpockets. Thinking the move might help her eventually get chosen for the Flying Squad, Jane agrees. 

One of DC Tennison’s greatest strengths is her power of perception. She sees more in situations than meets the eye, like when she perceives that an attractive young woman on the tube might be part of a gang of pickpockets—the young lady’s cleavage serving to distract the would-be objects of crime. 

On her way to court one morning, fighting through the crowds at Convent Garden station, Tennison overhears an elderly woman calling after a man, “Hey, you left your bag!” Jane notices a rucksack lying on the floor.

Jane followed her gaze and caught sight of a man wearing a hooded winter coat, walking away with his head down. Instead of turning to acknowledge the old lady he pushed people out of his way as he hurried towards the Long Lane exit.

Jane follows him, grabs at his sleeve, and gets a “momentary glimpse of his profile.” But he eludes her and twists “out of her grasp, batting her away.” Where is the rucksack? She senses “something was very wrong” and yells for everyone to leave. Too late.

The sound of the explosion was horrific. A ball of flame mixed with shattered glass and metal filled the air, followed by dense smoke which consumed the lift and ticket area. 

A huge man blocked Jane and unintentionally shielded her from the blast and flying debris, but his weight pushed her to the ground. Jane was completely dazed, and her ears throbbed with a high-pitched whine. A thick cloud of black smoke quickly filled the air, making it hard to breathe.

The CID lets it be known that Jane can identify the IRA bomber, even though she has made no such claim. She and her family are placed under protection. It’s a brutal race to prevent another bombing, even though Londoners react with their usual resilience: “Only a day after the horrific explosion everything was up and running, and throngs of people were still using public transport to get to work.”

The tension in Good Friday is unrelenting—it’s fascinating to see Jane at this early stage in her career insist that her instincts and perceptions of the bombing be respected and taken into account.

 

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Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee has unpredictable opinions on books. Season ticket holder of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on the books of Helen MacInnes, Mary Stewart, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Anne Perry ... I'm always looking for a great new mystery series.

Read all of Janet Webb's articles for Criminal Element!

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