Buried by Lynda La Plante – Introducing Detective Jack Warr and looking at old crimes

Buried by Lynda La Plante


A group of women are all drawn together one evening, all recently released from prison. Many years later a young police officer is trying to come to terms with his slow moving career before discovering that he has a family issue to concern him. The politics of a police unit, the criminal fraternity of a previous generation and the discovery of old crimes and secrets form the background to a gruesome situation. A burnt out cottage holds several interesting objects that will change lives forever, and this innovative crime novel makes full use of a situation which means a reassessment of so much personal history. Lynda La Plante is an experienced and extremely able writer who knows how to drive several stories together to make an immensely effective whole novel. It introduces Detective Jack Warr, “a slobbish 36 – year -old” with a ‘Heathcliff’ look. He and his partner Maggie have just moved to London from Devon so she can pursue her career as a junior doctor, and he can make a sideways move as a detective constable. He is able but a little disinterested in his work, and through this book becomes a character with real impact.  I was intrigued and pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this well written book.


The book opens with a Prologue set in 1994, with an unusual dinner party. Dolly Rawlins has been brought from prison to attend a meeting at the Grange, a large house. As she meets with several other women led by Ester Freeman, she has no idea what the meeting will lead to and its impact on many lives for many years afterwards. The focus then moves onto the present day, when a small cottage is seen to be on fire with unnatural heat. As the fire and police investigators work on the scene, they find several strange and unexpected things, many of which point to the fact that this was far from an accidental fire, and there was a deliberate attempt to obscure what went on in the small house. Most disturbingly a body is at the centre of the blaze, and identification is going to be very difficult.


Meanwhile DCI Simon Ridley is an efficient senior officer who expects commitment from his officers. Jack develops quite an interest in the case, especially as he discovers that he may have a personal interest in the case. He develops his own theories about possible links to past crimes and the criminal fraternity of several years before, which while it powers his personal involvement it does affect his focus on the case. As the detection of the crime reaches a crisis point Jack is not as involved as he should be, and his frustration is difficult to cope with for both him and those who care for him. 


This book works on several levels, the relationship between Maggie and Jack, and indeed his family. The element of a thriller as there is danger and violence in this book. The strongest element is of solving at least one crime from the past which has an influence on present day wrongdoing. I recommend this book as a superbly written crime novel, with memorable characters and a complex but comprehensible plot. 


   Most of the crime books that I review on this site are from the twentieth century rather than contemporary, and yet this one is a contemporary novel despite the references to late century events. La Plante has such a great number of television series behind her that this is a really impressive book.

Meanwhile I am still reading to review from my collection of books. I am stuck by how many non fiction books I have acquired and not read, about literary history, especially women writers. Trying to get a book a day can be quite a challenge – happily I have a few that I have not actually reviewed since reading them. It could be quite a mixed bag!