30 Day Book Challenge – #28 The Last Book You Read

Author: Lynda La Plante
Genre: Fiction/Crime
First Published: 1994
Pages: 467

Alcoholic Lieutenant Lorraine Page loses her job, her family and her reputation as she plummets into a downward spiral of drinking and prostitution. But when she is viciously attacked, she becomes the vital witness in the hunt for a serial killer. 

Lieutenant Lorraine Page has a fantastic reputation within the police force, a loving husband, two beautiful daughters and a drinking problem. When he shoots an innocent young boy dead she loses her job, and as her drinking spirals out of control, her family is next to leave. She lives the next six years in a hazy, drunken stupor; selling herself to make just enough money to buy her next bottle. After being hit by a car, she is taken into hospital, then a rehabilitation unit, where she meets recovering alcoholic Rosie. Seeing an opportunity to get herself out of hospital and to her next drink, Lorraine convinces Rosie to take her in under false pretences. While the pair struggle to see eye to eye, they slowly begin to work out a routine to suit them both, helping each other through relapses and financial troubles, with the help of Rosie’s sponsor, Jake.

One day, Lorraine is picked up from a street corner. Desperate for money and a drink, she is prepared to sink back into her old ways. When the man almost kills her with a hammer, she is suddenly drawn back into the police system, aiding their enquiries as they attempt to track down a serial killer. Suddenly, Lorraine has a reason to get herself back together, and with the help of Rosie, the pair undertake their own investigations with some dangerous consequences.

I had never read a Lynda La Plante novel before, and it isn’t something I had ever considered picking up. I read this one as one of my Dad’s colleagues send it as they thought I might enjoy it. Initially, the plot seemed very interesting. It opened right in the middle of Lorraine’s shooting incident, and started to discuss her decline straight away. I found this interesting as it differed from the regular opening of crime novels. However, the character of Lorraine was unlikable; her compulsive lying to those who are trying to help her is almost unbearable. Even during the police investigation, the reader is aware that all of the characters are withholding information from one another and it is infuriating as you cannot help but think that they would progress much quicker if they were more open with each other.

Another issue I had with the book was the sheer volume of characters and their complicated relationships with each other. The plot revolves around a complicated web of blackmail that is almost impossible to grasp, meaning that it is very difficult to remember who is who in the story. I also disliked the twist at the end of the book, as you are given the sense of closure that is accepted by the reader and not questioned, when Lorraine rips the whole case open again, and offers another complex network of blackmail that once again loses the reader. Although Lorraine does appear to have redeemed herself at the end of the book and becomes slightly more likable, her character is still irritating and deceptive.

Unfortunately I didn’t really engage with this book beyond half way. While I think Lorraine’s decent into alcoholism is an intriguing and new approach to the stereotypical detective character, the second half of the book is unnecessarily complex and hard work to comprehend. Many of the characters lack the sense of being fully formed, and begin to merge into one, and the ending that initially seems satisfactory is further complicated unnecessarily. Ultimately this book wasn’t for me, which was disappointing after such a promising opening; however, the opening was wonderfully done, which is why I have decided to settle for an average rating, as what the second half lacked, the beginning made up for.

Favourite quote: ‘Rooney felt inadequate. This big-eared windmill of a man, after just a few days’ thumbing through their files, was throwing out mind-blowing stuff.’ (p. 146)

Rating: 4/10