Crime has never been my favourite fiction genre. I’m absurdly squeamish and hate reading anything gory.
But over the last three years I’ve become hooked on Lynda La Plante’s compelling Anna Travis stories. I was gripped the moment I read the first one, Above Suspicion, and have snapped up the rest the instant they’re out.
I’m in luck because the seventh in the series, Blood Line, was published last week and soared straight to the top of the hardback fiction charts. And yet again, despite the gruesome crime scenes, I can’t put it down.
This time round, Anna Travis has been promoted to DCI and is taking charge of an investigation into the case of a clean-cut young man who’s been reported missing. On the surface Alan Rawlins sounds like a loving son, dutiful boyfriend and kind-hearted friend, but when Travis begins to investigate she discovers a sinister web of lies and secrets. Blood Line is chilling, scary – and like the rest of the series, utterly compelling. I’m not always convinced by her dialogue but La Plante is a consummate story-teller.
La Plante made her name with ITV’s highly-acclaimed Prime Suspect, starring Dame Helen Mirren, but she’s also a highly-skilled novelist who weaves the horror of Travis’s day-to-day work with the machinations of her tangled love life.
Much of the success of the Anna Travis series hinges on the on-off relationship between the young copper and her charismatic boss, Detective Chief Superintendent James Langton. The two were briefly an item, but now Langton’s remarried, with two children, and Travis is mourning the devastating loss of her fiancé. Even so, there’s still a spark between them (Langton secretly admits he’d rekindle their affair like a shot) and their scenes are the best in the book.
It’s a mark of the Anna Travis books’ success that three of them have been adapted for ITV, with Kelly Reilly starring as Travis and Ciaran Hinds as Langton, and a fourth has been commissioned. The TV dramas aren’t half as good as the novels but they’re a sure-fire sign that La Plante is on to a winner with Travis and Langton. Hopefully there’ll be more on the way.
PS: I don’t want to be a spoilsport about this but why is everyone being so ridiculous about the Duchess of Cambridge’s arrival in Canada? Today’s Daily Mail talks about how she’s “won the hearts of a nation” while a 14-year-old girl who turned out to see her said “this is a moment that will never be erased from my memory – not ever.” All Kate has done is look stylish (in three designer dresses) and smile charmingly. Surely our heroines in life should be women who have achieved a little bit more than this?