Tennison, by Lynda LaPlante
When I saw recently she had gone back to her most popular series with a prequel (it’s all the rage, isn’t it?), it seemed such an obvious choice.
But it’s also dangerous. Starting with a given endpoint, as you must when you go into a back story, something often dies.
That creative spark that writers have that puts flesh on a character and builds a believable, page-turning story sometimes just wilts when the writer is bound by known, established history and has to work within fairly rigid boundaries. Often the character remains just a character in a book, without their own life.
For me, that’s what happened in this story of Jane Tennison as a young probationer in a police station. The trials LaPlante puts Jane through make perfect sense if we think of who she is when we meet her as a Chief Inspector – the affair with a senior officer that goes wrong, the treading on toes, the naivete, the rampant sexism in the station – but it also feels a bit forced. Real life is never so logical.
But it is lovely to have Jane back, at whatever stage of life. She’s one of the great characters and I found myself hugely enjoying her – her curiosity and intelligence, her drive and force of character.
A six-part TV series is planned based on this book in 2017. I can’t imagine how daunting it will be for whoever plays young Jane to step into Helen Mirren’s shoes.
Tennison was published in September 2015.
The Patience of the Spider, by Andrea Camilleri
I’m a huge fan of Inspector Montalbano (Il commissario Montalbano). There are only a couple of crime series that I watched as a TV series before I read the books – this one and the Prime Suspect series (above) is about it.
While Prime Suspect was tense and enthralling, Inspector Montalbano is completely different territory and rather more laid back. He’s funny and charming and a bit nuts. And boy does he love his food.
Also in common with Prime Suspect, after the success of the grown-up character came a prequel series, The Young Montalbano, which I discovered by accident on SBS one night. I thought it was just about perfect, and am now looking forward to watching the second series, which came out last year.
The Patience of the Spider is from 2007, quite early in the Inspector Montalbano series (there are now more than 20). I get them when I want to read a lovely bit of light fluff, like on a plane trip or at the beach or if I’m sick and don’t need anything too demanding.
I won’t go into the actual plot, since the only thing that really matters is that it’s an opportunity to spend time with the magnificent Montalbano in the equally magnificent Sicily. I haven;t read that many yet, but they are all delightful.
This book was published in 2007.