Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blood Line by Lynda La Plante

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Still reeling from the death of her fiance, Detective Anna Travis has thrown herself into her new role as the chief inspector for London's murder squad.  When Scotland Yard's missing person bureau in unable to locate the son of a court employee, the superintendent - James Langton, Anna's former lover turned sometimes friend - urges her to take on the suspicious assignment.

But is this new investigation purely a missing persons case - or a full-blown murder inquiry?  An ominous pool of blood with no locatable victim leads Anna on a desperate hunt for a man who has disappeared without a trace.  With no body, and increasing pressure to make an arrest, Anna becomes obsessed with the smallest details of the case.  Now, one man has vanished, a killer may be loose on the streets, and, as Langton looks on, Anna Travis may be losing control of her investigation - and of herself.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to review Lynda La Plante's Prime Suspect series, and for the most part, I loved all three books.  They were something I had been wanting to tackle for a while, so I was excited when the opportunity presented itself.  Needless to say, when Blood Line was offered for review, I jumped at the chance.  I knew it was part of an ongoing series, though I didn't realise it was the 7th book, but I was okay with that.  Normally, in a police procedural, the books can be read as stand alone, if you don't mind not being clued in to some of the personal aspects of the characters.

Now I can't say that I like Anna Travis as much as I do Jane Tennison, but it comes pretty close.  I think, had I started at the beginning, I would have liked her a bit more in this one.  As it is, I found her to be a bit of a basket case, though with good reasons, and a bit hard to understand all the time.  But there is such a steely determination to go on, a desire to prove everyone wrong, that she fights her way back into my good graces.  She is a complex character, one that I'm thinking of revisiting at another time.  Above Suspicion, the first book in the series, may be an upcoming purchase.

My only issue, and while it didn't ruin the book for me, it came close, was the way the author deals with the main subject manner of the plot line.  I had the same issue with Silent Victims, the third book of the Prime Suspect series.  The missing man, who everyone says is the perfect son, a quiet thoughtful man, and someone who is shy, ends up being none of those things.  Neither his fiance, his father, or anyone else involved in the beginnings of the case knew he was a secretly gay man, living a very shadowy life.  Instead of being shy and quiet, he has a temper that can explode in violence.  He lives so deeply in the closet, at least while he is home in London, that he picks up guys through ads, and in a few cases rape became involved.  He is stock piling money through drug smuggling, and while he tries to back out in the end, that doesn't change the damage already caused to others.  So the victim, who starts off as a quiet, hard working auto mechanic, who is saving money to pay for his wedding, becomes a violent, gay drug smuggler.

And it doesn't end there, other than the gay officer who assists Travis in the investigation, gay men in general are not depicted well in this book.  Much like the gay officer in Silent Victims, Paul Simms seems to be added in to soften the negative stereotypes in the rest of the book.  Then towards the end of the book, we meet a young man who has a different take on the victim.  This is the young man, the victim was truly in love with and was wanting to build a new life with.  He was fixing up a Mercedes for his birthday, bought a house for them to live in, but then he disappears and the young man is left hanging in the air.  I understand turning the murder victim into a bad guy, and I even understand making the bad guy have a softer side, but it felt as if the love interest, who really isn't in the book beyond a few pages, was placed there in order to tone down the negative portrayal of gay men.  I get that there are violent gay men, they even may be drug dealers, and I'm okay with that.  I guess it's that I'm starting to see a pattern with this author, and I'm not sure I'm totally comfortable with it.

Earlier I said that my qualms with the subject matter almost ruined the book for me, with stress on the almost.  Because of the complexities in the case, the various characters who come in and out of the story, and the sheer violence of the way this man was killed, the author was able to keep my interest.  I found Blood Line to be a well crafted thriller that never stopped taking turns, or surprising me in the way Detective Travis was able to piece everything together, and bring those responsible to justice.

If you couldn't tell, I'm of two minds on this one.  I'm trying to be the bigger man and overlook the way I feel this author treats gay men in her books, and for the most part I'm there.  She is a talented writer who never fails, in the four books I've now read by her, to craft a storyline full of twists and turns that are based in the gritty reality of life.  I'm going to keep reading her books, I'm just going to have to put my sensibilities aside when I do.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.


bermudaonion said...

Stereotypes like that bother me too, so I can see why they almost ruined the book for you. I'll have to think about this one.

Lisa said...

I've got this one sitting ready to read soon so I've jumped from the beginning to the end here. I've been wanting to read LaPlante for a while; I'm glad to have the heads up that this one has some issues but will still satisfy.

Michael @ Literary Exploration said...

I really should try Lynda La Plante

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I can see why her portrayal of gay men is troubling, but I'm glad that you enjoyed the book in all other ways.

Thanks for being on the tour Ryan!