Young Anna Travis has been assigned to her first murder case – a series of killings that has shocked even the most hardened of detectives. They started eight years ago, now the body count is up to six. The method of killing is identical, the backgrounds of the girls identical … all drug-users and prostitutes. Then a seventh body is found. The modus operandi is the same – but this time the victim is a young student with the ‘face of an angel’. The profile of the murderer has changed dramatically.

A handful of crime novel enthusiasts and a talented sleuth-like writer is all you need for a great discussion of the ever popular mystery. We had both this month with our small group embracing Lynda La Plante’s first coupling of turbulent cop duo Anna Travis and James Langton in Above Suspicion.

Although Patricia and Irene had read La Plante before, they had both missed this first instalment in the series of Queen’s Park detective stories and were happy to have the earlier stages ‘filled in’. Noeline, who rarely likes to step outside the 17th or 18th Century was very impressed with Suspicion, even finishing the novel! We are all very proud of her.

Our discussion centred much around the characters’ personalities, particularly the young heroine Anna Travis and the “two-faced, selfish, egotistical control freak bastard (to quote Travis), Langton. It must be said here that most of us agreed with this assessment of Langton. He was far from likable, took too many risks and in our opinion behaved unethically and was  unprofessional much of the time. To say theirs (Travis and Langton) was a tumultuous relationship is stating the obvious, but throw them into the chase for a psychopathic killer such as Alan Daniels and you do, we all agreed, have a great crime thriller.

We also spoke about the writing styles of mystery/crime books nowadays and how the ‘whodunits’ have changed from discovering who the villain is to how they will be caught. We all thought La Plante developed this process well and in most cases believably. We all found the story moved at a good pace, developing the characters and relationships as it closed in on its some what predictable conclusion. But the complex mix of personalities and urgent search for the evidence needed to put away the killer was enough to satisfy this group of crime readers. So if you haven’t yet tried La Plante, we strongly suggest you add it to your list.