Reviewed by Ian Lipke
In the longevity stakes Lynda La Plante has no equal. I remember reading the first volume of Prime Suspect as a young man, never realizing that it would be the first of a gripping series. Before we knew it, there were televised versions of most of the Prime Suspect series. Lynda La Plante has trained for the stage at RADA, worked with the National Theatre and has been an actress on television. She has become famous for the TV series Widows. She wrote the script. Not even she knew that 170 hours of script writing was to follow.
Prime Suspect has returned to history but a new series has appeared to bolster people’s reading appetites. The first volume is the police procedural, Buried, in which the lead character is a young police constable Jack Warr. Jack has moved from a small police force in the west of the UK to the Metropolitan Police Force in London, a different beast that moves at a breakneck pace. We follow Jack’s exploits from his arrival as an ‘other dependent’ young man to his development as a seasoned detective.
It is interesting to chart one’s own response to Jack as the story unwinds. Jack has to adjust to the frenetic pace of modern policing, nevertheless, it is clear very quickly that he is not to be relied on. His regular police duties are carried out in a sloppy manner as he pursues the idea of identifying his long-unknown father while determining who was responsible for a diamond heist and a train robbery from which millions in bank notes have been stolen.
The plot is unimportant. It is run-of-the-mill and does its job with the dedication of an automaton. It is a Gruyere cheese as far as holes in the plot are concerned. The characters are much more interesting. We watch the developing interest in police work that has Jack shining like an idea that has just struggled into existence. We observe his interaction with his wife Maggie and praise him for his steadfastness and deep love for her. At a time when Jack is skirting with the possibility of a sacking or a direction to return to a country posting, Maggie is his support, but also a keeper of common sense and levelheadedness:
“You haven’t got a case!” Maggie flicked her hands dismissively towards his evidence wall. “This…This is not a police investigation. This is a personal…God knows what!” She turned in Jack’s arms to face him. “You’re not supposed to be doing this and, more to the point, you don’t need to be doing it. You have a dad. Why do you need another one? Especially this one, Jack – he sounds awful” (183).
DCI Simon Ridley is described very cleverly in one short paragraph. We are in no doubt about what sort of man he is. “He was a slender, almost sinewy 50-something man who did everything standing up: reading, eating, phoning. He could walk a couple of miles up and down a room in a single meeting” (23). As the plot develops, we learn that Ridley has very firm opinions and is difficult to shift when his mind is set. He could see from the time he first met Jack that the young man had potential and maintained that view despite Jack’s careless attitude towards his work.
There are villains in this story. Many of them are women who, to the casual reader, can be indistinguishable. There is Ester, Dolly, Angela, Julia, Gloria, Kathleen and Connie, more than enough to confuse any reader. Most of them are grey people, with nothing to prompt their specific identity. The book is very much like the Inspector Morse series but written at a lower level. I found it difficult to accept some of the actions of these women. As a result, the plot was tedious and unlikely.
Still, the book offers a pleasant way to fill in an afternoon. I have no trouble with recommending it.
by Lynda La Plante
Allen & Unwin
$32.99; 384 pp