Jack Warr is back and I could not be happier. Love this series and I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on Pure Evil, Lynda La Plant’s brand new novel, courtesy of the lovely folk at Zaffre who granted me an early read via Netgalley. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
It was supposed to be a simple case: a young man arrested for armed assault.
But it was just the beginning.
As Rodney Middleton awaits trial, Detective Jack Warr is warned by his mentor DCI Ridley that they have only scratched the surface of the man’s crimes.
Then DCI Ridley is suddenly removed from his post. No one is to contact him – and no one will say why.
As Warr digs into Middleton’s past, Ridley calls pleading for help, now accused of a murder he insists he didn’t commit.
To catch a monster and exonerate his friend, Warr must weed out the lies. But what awaits Warr if he uncovers the truth?
Oh I do love a Jack Warr story and this is an absolute belter. Not only is Jack faced with trying to prove the seemingly impossible, that a man who was arrested for a knife attack is actually guilty of far darker cimes, but his friend and mentor, DCI Simon Ridley, is faced with career and life ruining accusations and trusts only Jack to help him. Stepping in to help Ridley could also have implications for Jack’s career, but having seen Jack in action over the course of the series, there’s no one I would rather go to for help either.
This book has really quite dark undertones. I like the way that Lynda La Plante has framed this whole story, that Rodney Middleton, a man arrested for quite a serious offence, is actually a far more twisted individual than the simple arrest might suggest. It is clear that Jack has doubts about Middleton from the off, fuelled by Ridley, but driven by the knowledge that he has a history of violence and that there is something about his persona and the calm way in which he allowed himself to be arrested that just smells off. Now as readers, we are given the briefest hint of what his real crime might be right from the beginning, but, even then, it takes time for the full horrific truth to come to the fore. The slow reveal allows the author to keep the violence off the page, there is no doubting by the end of the novel just what has occured. The real question is, is Middleton the perpetrator and, if so, how far does the depravity extend?
I love Jack Warr as a character. He is a little morally ambiguous when it comes to towing the line and sticking to the letter of the law, but he actions always come from a place of good intent. He is hell bent on justice being served, and as a result of that will often push the limits of his role as a Police Officer to achieve it. Anyone who has read the rest of the series knows that he is a flawed character, but in a good way, and the times when he takes liberties with procedure, it comes from a place of striving for good. Some of his actions in this book do end in dire consequences, but not necessarily as a direct result of his actions, more the gradual pursuit of proving Ridley’s innocence.
One of the great things about Jack Warr though, and what makes this a kind of stand out series for me, is his relationship with his family. Admittedly he does go a bit ‘ostrich’ when it comes to talking to his wife, Maggie, about his mother, Penny, who seems to be acting out of character. Whether this ongoing forgetfulness is medical or otherwise, we are all to discover as we read the book, but the scenes between Jack, Maggie, their daughter, Hannah, and Penny, do bring a smile to my face. They are so perfectly normal, real everyday scenes that could happen in any household, that they make a nice diversion from the darker sides of the book.
The pacing of the book is just right, the growing sense of desperation on Jack’s part as he struggles to find evidence against Middleton, and to exonerate Ridley, almost palpable. Faced with a new boss that he just can’t quite get the measure of, and a team who aren’t aware of Jack’s sideline investigation, there is that added conflict and sense of urgency which really keeps the story moving. the writing is finely tuned, the harsher moments peppered with humour which keeps a difficult and sometimes emotional story, perfectly pitched. Touching on themes of grooming and murder, Lynda La Plante has created a story which really hits home, full of drama, tension, and uncertainty, which kept me glued to the story right to the end. Loved it.
About the Author
Lynda La Plante is the author of over forty bestselling novels. She trained for the stage at RADA and worked with the National theatre and RSC before becoming an actress. She then turned to writing – and made her breakthrough with the phenomenally successful TV series Widows. Lynda’s original script for the much-acclaimed Prime Suspect won awards from BAFTA, Emmys, British Broadcasting and Royal Television Society as well as the 1993 Edgar Allan Poe Award. Lynda is an honorary fellow of the British Film Institute and was awarded the BAFTA Dennis Potter Best Writer’s Award in 2000. In 2008, she was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to Literature, Drama and Charity. Lynda La Plante is the first lay person to be awarded an honorary fellowship to the Forensic Science Society. In 2020 she launched the acclaimed Listening to the Dead podcast with former CSI Cass Sutherland, exploring forensic science and its impact on solving crimes.