Book Review – Backlash


backlashTitle: Backlash by Lynda la Plante

Who are the main characters?

This is book is number 8 in the Anna Travis series, which is a bit confusing because that character doesn’t actually make an appearance until the story is well underway. However, she is billed as a central character and I guess that was the author’s intention even though she had more of a supporting role in this one. Her immediate boss Langton also plays a central role (why are they called the Anna Travis books when really they are Travis and Langton??) and there is a smattering of recurring characters from previous books too.

Where is it set?

As with the others in the series it is set in and around London.

Background/plot:

The book opens with an erratic van driver being pulled over by the police who consequently is found to have the dead body of a young woman in the back. During his initial police interview he confesses to the murder of several other young women, one of whom is one of Langton’s outstanding cold cases. The book then takes us through the fine detail of the police team hunting down details to first of all identify the alleged victims, corroborate the perpetrator’s confession and then find the bodies.

My overall impression?

I would like to say that I loved this book but the honest truth is that I only just about liked it. The story itself was entertaining (if murder can ever be entertaining, but you know what I mean), but I was irritated and frustrated by the way it was actually written.

Far be it for me to criticise a professional author, but I didn’t like being told what a particular character was feeling I much prefer to be shown. For example I don’t want to be told that Anna was angry, I want to read it for myself by her dialogue and the description of her actions. Don’t tell me “Anna was very angry when she left the office”, show me that “swearing softly under her breath, Anna kicked the wastepaper bin as she exited the office, slammed the door and glared viciously at Joan who was waiting to talk to her”. I want descriptions and detail, not boring statements about what was taking place. Having said that, I don’t want to know what Travis is wearing or what she ate for breakfast unless it is a plot point. Don’t tell me she had a Chinese takeaway before going to bed unless it was going to affect something later in the story. This book is littered with pointless examples like that, which is boring and meaningless. One of the biggest pointless, meaningless details are the victims themselves. We are told that the perpetrator confesses to several killings, and we are told their names, but the investigation only concentrates on a couple of them. One of them isn’t investigated AT ALL by the team, so why mention her? It doesn’t make sense to me.

I was also very disappointed by the cardboard cut-out characters here. We are now at book 8 and both Langton and Travis are as one-dimensional in this as they were right at the start. Their reactions are predictable (every time Langton appears he is short-tempered and angry with everyone) and there are no signs of development or characterisation in either of them. The other “bit-part” characters are the same – Barbara and Joan in the incident room are like two 1970s secretaries, the other DCI’s are all fat, sweating, dunderheaded versions of policeman that are straight out of the comic books and even the murderer himself is a very one-dimensional character with no redeeming features at all. The dialogue (when it comes) is clunky and unbelievable, and the whole thing reads a bit like a police instruction manual.

I haven’t read all of the series (I hadn’t realised I missed one when I started this) but they could easily be read out of order because there is no development along the way for any of the recurring characters. There are a couple of things that happen to each of them (Langton’s knee injury, Anna moves house etc) but my point is that they don’t seem to have any effect on the character’s development it’s not worth mentioning at all. If it isn’t going to affect change in the character’s outlook or behaviour why write it into the story?

Will I read the next in the series?

I think there is one more to go and to be honest I don’t care if I read it or not. I don’t care what happens to Travis or Langton, and I don’t really care enough to spend another fiver on something that I would only give 3 out of 5 stars to. I would perhaps read it if I didn’t have to pay for it (the murder side of these books has always been far better than the police character side) so for that reason I might do.

Would I recommend it to my friends?

I wouldn’t say don’t read it, but I can think of better books to spend your money on. It is very mediocre so as long as you don’t expect top quality writing and just want something to pass the time then there is no harm in reading this one.

My overall rating:

I would give this 6 out of 10.

 

 

 

 

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