Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lynda La Plante - Wrongful Death


The Woman behind 'Silent Witness' is back!

La Plante's latest Police drama is a complicated, multi-stop journey into the multiple lens-approach of crime solving.  It principally follows the obsessive, narcissistic DCI Anna Travis as she's attempts to re-investigate the seemingly innocuous suicide of a seedy soho club owner.  As the clues are painstakingly (as much for the reader as for Travis) collected our hero is ambushed by equally narcissistic administrators and high ranking officials, an FBI trainer and a serial killing matriarch.  The plot seems to climb up endless ladders only to high dive into shallow pools of irrelevance as La Plante creates a series of undercurrent plots for uptake in future books.  Bu they just don't work.  You get the feeling she was paid by the word on this one, as there's just so much extra pointless content.  For instance, Travis is accepted to the Portico FBI training centre in the US.  Travis is an English small city London Copper so this is a big deal for her career.  A number of elongated incidents occur while she's out there. One: she strikes up a relationship with her trainer, a romantic distraction that seems to just fizzle out half way through the book. But not before she solves one of the Trainer's investigations. His only value in return is a couple of connections and a friendly ear while Travis pieces together the plot scenario.  In essence that whole penny-dropping revelation and insight of the crime at hand could have been a conversation with a garage owner.  She didn't need to go all the way to the states for that piece of guidance - any local character would have done.  The undertaking of that little subplot has no bearing or relation on the main plot and des nothing to enhance this story, aside from a wasted distraction.  Second is an entire side story involving one of the minor characters, Travis' boss, who goes on a rough mission with the FBI to bring in a notorious drug dealer.  This two is unrelated to the main plot.  The third is a long winded backstory involving bad blood between Travis' superiors.  This does have limited use as a vehicle of mistrust dispersed on Travis when she dares to suspect key witnesses in the club owner's suicide were conspiring his actual murder.  One by one Travis challenges witnesses and defames their characters and bloodline, untangling a highly complicated web of unintended incest and intentional murder, led by the cleanest and most minor of supporting cast members. Isn't all ways the quiet ones, the perfect ones or the most outstanding who end up accused in the end?

Creating ample annoyance is one Jess Dewar, an FBI psychiatrist profiler on secondment.  She dares to challenge the wisdom of the UK police in the first instance, opening up the case and casting full aspersions on the original verdict of suicide.  However, she's a clich├ęd American - obnoxious, loud, and right despite all.  Travis is her alter ego - quiet but always right!  Between them they should have contributed to an all out cat fight over the solving of this case.  Yet the constant onslaught of distracting subplots just weakens that opportunity.  Sadly watering down the impacts.

La Plante writes like a cop.  Matter of fact, short, sharp sentences.  She's not given to subtlety or embellishment - there's an economy in her prose, despite the abundance of ideas in the bank.

Overall, the plot is good.  The characters are ripe, juicy and more-ish.  But her execution is clunky and a bit overcooked.  Shame, too many cooks in this kitchen over egging the cake, alas.

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