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.