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IT MAY be pushing it a bit to put Lynda La Plante in the gangster fiction genre, but having been brought up on the Prime Suspect series with Helen Mirren I think there are enough dodgy characters involved to make out a good case for including her.

Of course, perhaps the first crime gang you can associate with Lynda is the Widows, who took centre stage in a popular TV series back in the early 80s. Dolly and her crew got together to finish off an armed robbery which went wrong, leaving their husbands dead.

It ran for two series with a third following ten years later, catching up with Dolly after her release from prison.

None of Lynda's characters would look out of place in a Martina Cole book and in Tennison there is a family firm that take centre stage, plotting an audacious bank raid over a quiet bank holiday weekend.

The Tennison in question is Jane who is well known from when Dame Helen played her as a tough-as-nails police detective.

That Prime Suspect series was must-see TV and took the police procedural to a whole new level, mainly because of the terrific development of characters and the way they interacted with each other.

This book investigates the early days of Tennison as a rookie WPC learning the trade in east London. It begins when she is drafted in on a double murder inquiry, but switches its focus half way through.

In fact, the murders become a bit inconsequential in the overall plot, only serving to introduce the characters and give an insight into police "loyalty" and the bond that develops between the likes of DCI Bradfield and the other officers involved. The helter-skelter ending keeps you on the edge of your seat but it does make you wonder whether this book was about 200 pages too long. It takes a long time to get into the action and WPC Tennison tends to take a back seat as the drama unfolds.

Still, it gives a good insight into deconstructed police officers in the 70s and how hard it was for women, or "plonks" as they were labelled in derisory fashion, to get their voices heard.

Not her most thrilling book - it was almost certainly written so that a new TV series could grow from it - but it has given me the appetite to explore her Prime Suspect back catalogue.

3.5 stars

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