Book Reviews: La Plante goes back to Tennison's early days

Lynda La Plante's new novel sets the scene for the rise of one of crime fiction's best-known female protagonists

Tennison by Lynda La Plante, published in hardback by Simon & Schuster

DCI Jane Tennison is one of television's best known police officers. Brought to life on the small screen by Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, the gritty, determined cop has a legion of fans. But very little is known about Tennision's early days, the probationary WPC who was later to become a focused and resolute champion of justice.

With this 'prequel', Lynda La Plante has filled in those gaps and given her own fans the chance to find out what made Tennison the officer she became. As a young constable thrown into a male-dominated and chauvinistic world of early 1970s London, she cuts her crime-fighting teeth on the investigation of the murder of a young girl.

Learning quickly as she goes, Tennison shows all of the insight and a nose for crime which goes on to stand her in great stead for the rest of her career.

By introducing the beginnings of Tennison's police career, prolific author and screenwriter La Plante has filled in the gaps with a compelling instalment.

Roddy Brooks

The Gap Of Time by Jeanette Winterson, published in hardback by Hogarth

THE Gap Of Time is Jeanette Winterson's moving, pacy "cover version" of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale (1611). This is a clever book that explores themes of love, loss, and forgiveness as parents screw up their children and do the unthinkable.

In The Winter's Tale, Leontes's misplaced jealousy (he thinks his wife, Hermione, is having an affair with his best friend) causes him to abandon his baby daughter, Perdita, and kill his wife (or so we think). Sixteen years later, he gets the chance of atonement.

In Winterson's witty and funky adaptation, Shakespeare's characters are transplanted to a modern-day America of poverty and racial politics and to London and Paris, post-financial crash. Hermione (now Mimi) is a singer and Leo a capitalist and property developer.

Perdita becomes a feisty, no-nonsense heroine whose journey to make sense of her origins becomes a mystery story and adventure romp. The play and the re-telling are personal and the playful treatment of time will be familiar to readers of her Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (1985). A thrilling read.

Nicola Wilson

Mr Smiley: My Last Pill And Testament by Howard Marks, published in hardback by Macmillan

HAILED as 'the most sophisticated drug baron of all time', lovable rogue Howard Marks has gone on to become an author, columnist and DJ.

His first autobiography, Mr Nice, was the bestselling non-fiction book of 1997. It detailed his time running a cannabis-smuggling empire, including taking in huge amounts of the drug via Ireland, until he was caught and imprisoned in 1988.

The follow up, Mr Smiley: My Last Pill And Testament, picks up as he is released seven years later, and details how he is soon drawn into the hectic world of drug of the moment: ecstasy.

Touring and promoting Mr Nice, it appeared from the outside that his smuggling days were behind him, but the schemes and struggles continued behind closed doors. Diagnosed with inoperable cancer earlier this year, this is literally his last testament, told with trademark wit and charm. This may not be the game changer that Mr Nice was, but it is still a fascinating insight into the world of a charismatic bad boys.

Harriet Shephard

I'll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones (as told to Paul Morley), published in hardback by Simon & Schuster

TO DESCRIBE Grace Jones as a singer, model and actress seems inadequate, yet she makes clear herein that she's no fan of the word 'diva'.

Her autobiography lifts the lid on a life somehow even more remarkable than one would expect. After a tough upbringing (her family were Pentecostal on one side, perfectionist on the other, which made life difficult for an inveterate square peg like Grace) she escapes to New York and Paris, going on to meet pretty much anyone who was anyone.

Friendly rivalry with Jerry Hall, turning down Jack Nicholson (though later comparing hat collections with him), sharing a smoke with Keith Richards... it's all here, though so is a more surprising quiet side (she's a big fan of watching tennis).

Yet the biggest star always remains Grace Jones herself; her account can be scattershot, but is also self-reflective in a way celebrity memoirs seldom manage. Spellbinding stuff.

Alex Sarll


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