The ninth novel in the Anna Travis series sees our DCI heroine investigate the formally closed case of club owner Josh Reynolds, whose death was ruled out as a suicide six months previous. A review of the case is initiated when former colleague of the deceased, now awaiting trial, claims that he holds information indicating that Reynolds was murdered. The peaceful office is railed off the status quo when DCS James Langton includes FBI Agent Jessie Dewar on the case for work experience.
What begins as a closed suicide unravels into a deceitful mess of secrets locked within a dysfunctional family, illustrating the extent which some people will go to protect themselves.
I have never read an Anna Travis novel before, or any material from highly acclaimed author Lynda La Plante to be more precise, and so I was overwhelmed by how much detail and realism was consumed within this book. I anticipated Wrongful Death to be a high action thriller; instead it was a slow burning mysterious drama which was equally as enjoyable. The novel was not subjectively about the investigation itself as it gave a deepful insight into how police operations functioned and the characters, despite some being less sympathetic than others, were well structured.
One of the most successful elements of crime fiction is that you can pick up any book, even if it is the fifth in a series, and have no issues on understanding what has happened in the storyline. Most cases are closed with the end of each book so we are able to start afresh with the next in the series and we acquire a general indication of character personalities through backgrounds morphed into pages, no doubt for those who are entering the series in the middle. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the past eight Anna Travis novels as although previous plotlines were referred to, it didn’t damage my reading. The only short continuing case which was mentioned was Langton determined to bring down his nemesis, Fitzpatrick.
What was extremely unique about this novel was that Plante challenged the structure of the regular plot. This allowed for the novel to flow similarly to real life. As well as three investigations taking place: the primarily presumed suicide, the hunt for a missing girl and the drug lord Fitzpatrick case, we also had the tension between Travis and Dewer and a blossoming love life for our protagonist. Most novels tend to focus on the one thing, however, Plante created a perfect balance between the investigations and Anna’s personal life so we were invested both in the characters and the crime mysteries.
At the beginning of the book it was made clear that Travis would be participating in a ten week FBI training course in Quantico, Virginia. Yet, when you are used to the formulaic rules of novel conventions you knew that Travis would never attend the course because the Josh Reynolds case would swallow up her existence and she would believe it to be her duty to see it through until the end, sacrificing a wonderful opportunity. My judgement was totally wrong as Travis does end up jetting off to the states. It was refreshing to see an author having the guts to challenge conventions and this made her fantasy world feel all the more real.
At 512 pages, the length of Wrongful Death was quite draining. Although detail is always important in transporting us into another world, some of the storylines could have been shortened dramatically as they were rather tiresome.
Despite most of the characters being fleshed out and carrying their own personal traits Dewar was one who I felt uneasy towards. Right from the beginning we knew Dewar was going to cause friction on the scene and like most people I was not fond of her, although she was a strong believable individual. However, when Anna returns from the FBI training it was as though Dewar became a 2-D character. Since the novel is from Anna’s perspective it means all the characters revolve around her, however, I was disappointed when we returned to Dewar after approximately 150 pages as she seemed lost within the story. Even though she had undergone a character arc, her unique flare compared to the first sequence had disintegrated. Her importance in the novel simmered away and that was a shame as she held potential.
Wrongful Death is an interesting murder mystery to read, told with a simple and clever writing style from the mind of by Lynda La Plante. It is very easy to straightaway connect with Anna Travis and try to solve the mystery in your own head so I hope to read more material from Plante in the near future.