Judas Horse by Lynda La Plante – Detective Jack Warr on the trail of an informer while maintaining good relations

Judas Horse by Lynda La Plante

Violent burglars rampaging around an area of highly desirable properties is one thing for Detective Jack Warr to deal with, but coping with more senior officers is another thing altogether in La Plante’s latest crime thriller. When diplomacy is not enough, he must consider other methods to prevent those he struggles with from getting in the way of stopping a sophisticated gang perpetrate more attacks on homes that will soon only end one way. When a frightened woman explains that a “Judas Horse” is trained to betray the other wild beasts, Jack realizes that protecting victims is a fine art. Those people who have read the first book in this excellent series will pick up some of the reasons why Jack acts as he does, but there is certainly enough detail in this book for those who have not previously encountered Jack Warr to work out why he is a divided man. His love for his partner Maggie who is heavily pregnant is never in doubt, and in many ways he operates in the kind and thoughtful way taught him by his adoptive father, Charlie. His birth father is another matter, however, and he is a great police officer with an extra edge. This well written police procedural has much to offer as the detectives are seen as real people, with their own skills and talents to offer. La Plante handles this complex story and her large cast of characters with great skill and experience, drawing in the reader to a totally compelling climax. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this well written book.

The novel opens with the traumatic discovery of a body by two boys. Not that this situation is picked up again until later in the book, but it sits in the reader’s mind as evidence of how brutal criminals can be on occasion. The case of the Wimbledon Prowler was not Jack Warr’s case to begin with, but while assisting the officer in charge who has lost all confidence in his ability to solve the series of burglaries, he encounters Mike, a retired officer who has good ideas about how to trap done a serial offender. A happy event leaves Jack thoughtful as well as totally content, and even his rather taciturn boss, Ridley is touched by Maggie and Jack’s thoughtfulness. When an assignment outside London comes up, Ridley is surprised when Jack volunteers, but is perhaps underestimating Jack’s enthusiasm to put some of his recently learnt skills into practice. Soon Jack is trying to balance the detection of a series of crimes which has shown him the real effects on those who already have daily challenges, the skills necessary to maintain at least a working relationship with those senior to him, and the pull of his family at home.

This is the sort of book that ‘just one more chapter’ becomes difficult as I found the plot absorbing, as well as finding out what would happen to the dedicated but human Jack and those he is fighting to protect. The writing is well paced, and La Plante is well able to handle the interactions between characters that include professional jealousy as well as ambition. As some more senior officers struggle to accept Jack, he maintains his clear plan and wins the trust of those who he needs to encourage. This is an extremely well written crime thriller where the main character does have self doubts, but is not plagued with a serious problem with other people. I am a rather selective reader of contemporary crime novels, but have found this book so enjoyable I will definitely be looking out for more La Plante novels, especially those featuring DS Jack Warr.  

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!