Book of the Week: Hidden Killers by Lynda La Plante

She’s back again, the unforgettable female detective Jane Tennison, immortalised by actress Helen Mirren in the hit television show Prime Suspect.

Last year Tennison creator Lynda La Plante took us back to the 1970s, pre-Prime Suspect Days, with Tennison as a rookie cop in the novel Tennison. La Plante’s latest Hidden Killers takes us to 70s London again and wow, what a great job she does of transporting us back in time, nailing the culture to a tee: smoking in the office, male coppers ogling topless models in newspapers, casual racist remarks and blatant sexism in the workplace. And we can see how Jane Tennison became the woman we got to know in Prime Suspect – intelligent, observant, tenacious, and courageous.

After the shocking events from the first book Tennison, the twenty-something WPC is back in Hackney and she’s now gunning for a job in CID, but she’s up against the old boys, and needs to prove herself. She pulls off the chance to work for the new CID boss to act as a decoy and bait a guy who’s been sexually assaulting women around London Fields and who may be connected to a recent brutal rape.


After the success of that operation Tennison gets her promotion and becomes a Detective Constable in CID, moving to London’s Bow Street, but as they try to nail the violent suspect for the rape as well as the assaults, there’s something not adding up and Tennison suspects police corruption. Despite warnings from colleagues not to get involved, Tennison can’t help herself even if it means jeopardising her promotion. And when her first case comes up at Bow Street, though it initially appears like a routine police visit to a young mother found drowned in the bath with no foul play suspected, Tennison has other ideas. But it’s hard to get anyone to listen when you’re new and you’re female in this male dominated police force, and it looks like she might be about to gamble her whole career on her suspicions.

hidden-killersLa Plante is working at the top of her game with Hidden Killers, a fast-paced, thoroughly entertaining crime novel in which Tennison’s growth as a police officer and a woman ring true once again. It’s fascinating to see how the police force work in earlier days, before forensic science and DNA testing, and especially to see how almost impossible it is for a female police officer to be taken seriously. This novel can be read standalone or, for La Plante fans, it’s a much-welcome follow up to last year’s Tennison.

In an interview with La Plante last year, the author told told us that returning to Jane Tennison’s earlier days was was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable writing periods of her career: ‘Revisiting DCI Jane Tennison was also made much easier by the fact that I had already established her parents and sister in the original Prime Suspect,’ she said. ‘The most interesting aspect of creating Jane aged 22 was knowing that I eventually had to make her grow into the formidable, very controlled, career woman portrayed by Dame Helen Mirren.’

Lynda La Plante was born in Liverpool. She trained for the stage at RADA and worked with the National Theatre and RSC before becoming a television actress. She then turned to writing – and made her breakthrough with the phenomenally successful TV series Widows. Her novels have all been international bestsellers. Her original script for the much-acclaimed Prime Suspect won awards from BAFTA, British Broadcasting and the Royal Television Society as well as the 1993 Edgar Allan Poe Award. She was made an honorary fellow of the British Film Institute and was awarded the BAFTA Dennis Potter Award in 2000. She was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2008 and was inaugurated into the Crime Thriller Writers’ Hall of Fame in 2009.

Better Reading spoke to Lynda La Plante last year about the life of a crime writer and how she researches her novels and scripts.

Purchase a copy of the book or read an extract.

Watch Lynda La Plante as she talks about ‘How well do we really know the people closest to us?’ and thanks her fans!