Review: Heavily laden with the social issues of present-day England, Clean Cut, Lynda LaPlante's third novel in the well-received Anna Travis series, follows Detective Inspector Travis and her lover DCI James Langton as they track suspects, quibble over clues and wrangle over their roles as co-workers and paramours. A crackling good read, the novel provides an insight into the pressures of policing in a multicultural society and the toll it takes — or not — on those involved as Langton determines at all costs to find the immigrant assailant who almost killed him with a machete slash, even if it means shattering the law he's supposed to uphold and abandoning his lover in the wake.
Although Langton is the officer in command in Clean Cut, Travis is clearly the chief protagonist, and the more likeable of the two, with the story lines swirling around her as she nurses her ill-tempered boss and lover back to health after his injury, helps him with a case of his own, and investigates a separate incident that eventually links to Langton's. A noir police procedural, the novel has a bleak realism to it, especially with the references to the murder of a mother and child and the forensic discovery of their remains in a farmyard piggery and the attendant implications. The action is fast paced and the suspense tightens as Langton closes in on his attacker and Travis begins to suspect the purity of his motivations in the chase, leaving her with a moral dilemma of her own to resolve, especially after their amorous relationship has disintegrated into dust and a criminal has been mysteriously poisoned. The between-the-lines and overt power struggles between the two both as co-workers and as lovers are well depicted and add too to the good vs evil conflict in the book. And for good measure there's a chilling dose of voodoo "on the dark side" tossed in for yet more spice. And what could be more intriguing than the ending of the story when Travis reflects about Langton that, "He was a formidable man, and she had no desire to get on the wrong side of him. She now knew she held a secret — a very dangerous one." Obviously one she will carry forward into the next novel.
Besides being a much better-than-average crime novel, LaPlante's book contains various revelations about issues of immigration, racism and enforced political correctness in England's law enforcement agencies. It also contains a "Reading Group Guide" with a series of questions and the transcript of a conversation with LaPlante in which she discusses her source for the story, the research she did for it and her views about the effects of government policies on police work, a useful addendum for an accurate understanding of the author's intent.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (email@example.com) for contributing his review of Clean Cut.
Acknowledgment: Simon & Schuster provided a copy of Clean Cut for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Touchstone (Hardcover), July 2010
ISBN-13: 9781439139295; ISBN-10: 1439139296
Location(s) referenced in Clean Cut: London, England
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Clean Cut by Lynda La Plante — An Anna Travis Mystery
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $15.00