In the footsteps of Jane Tennison, immortalized by Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, comes Anna Travis, a rookie female detective about to embark on her first murder case. The murders couldn't be more gruesome. The method of killing is identical, the backgrounds of the girls very similar -- all are prostitutes. As the book opens, a seventh body is found, same modus operandi but the victim this time is a sweet young student. Anna stumbles on a vital piece of information that links one man to the killings, a well-known, much-loved actor. His protestation of innocence is convincing, and Anna might be succumbing to his flattering attention. What if he is arrested, the media erupts, and he is the wrong man?
This reading group guide forAbove Suspicionincludes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Anna Travis is a rookie detective handpicked by well-respected Chief Inspector James Langton to join her first murder case investigation. Though she shows the usual jitters at her first postmortem, Anna quickly recovers to attack the case with a zeal and thoroughness reminiscent of her famed chief inspector father. When the key murder suspect decides to pursue Anna, she struggles to keep her head and her heart as she engages him in a delicate game of cat and mouse. Lynda La Plante succeeds in creating another compelling heroine whose dedication and single-minded pursuit of justice makes her a worthy adversary for doubting colleagues and the criminals who cross her path.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. What are your first impressions of rookie Anna Travis? How are these impressions challenged or altered throughout the course of the story? What final conclusions do you hold about Anna and her capacity to be an effective detective?
2. How effectively does La Plante situate you in the world of police work? What are the ways she allows you to understand the nature of the work that Anna, Langton, and their colleagues do? What are some of the roadblocks that inhibit the efficacy of the detectives’ work?
3. What personal conflicts arise for both Anna and Langton as they investigate the murder case? How does each try to manage or overcome his/her conflicts? Is each successful? Why or why not?
4. What is the trail of evidence that emerges to incriminate Alan Daniels? How are the detectives able to shift the evidence from circumstantial to prosecutable? What role does Anna play in this shift?
5. What role do parental influences play in the life outcomes of both the villain and heroes in Above Suspicion? What does La Plante suggests about the most compelling influences in crafting a person’s character? What do you believe?
6. What key insights does the profiler, Michael Parks, provide to the detectives? How do these insights impact the direction of the investigation? Do you believe in the value of a profiler? Why or why not?
Enhance Your Book Club
Explore the role of a profiler. The work of profiler Michael Parks proved essential in crafting a portrait of the killer in Above Suspicion. At the outset of the investigation, Michael reveals that the behaviors of a sociopath and a psychopath can often be indistinguishable from each other; only a trained eye can detect the difference. While Michael comes to his own conclusion about the killer, your book club members will go through their own exploratory process to make a case for why the killer is either a sociopath or a psychopath.
Prior to the book club meeting, divide your members into two groups. Group one members will explore the characteristics and behaviors of a psychopath and arrive at a single definitive list of these characteristics and behaviors. Group two members will create their own definitive list of characteristics and behaviors for the sociopath designation. Each group will chose a primary speaker to present their case for why the killer in Above Suspicion is either a psychopath or sociopath. Each group should use the specific behaviors and actions of the killer in the novel as part of their evidence.
Questions to consider:
a) What is your definitive list of characteristics for a psychopath and sociopath?
b) What are the key similarities and differences in these designations?
c) Did you agree with Michael Park’s designation? If no, why not?
d) Identify the single most surprising finding from each group.
Lynda La Plante's many novels, including the Prime Suspect series, have all been international bestsellers. She is an honorary fellow of the British Film Institute and a member of the UK Crime Writers Awards Hall of Fame. She was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2008. She runs her own television production company and lives in London and Easthampton, New York. Visit her website at LaplanteBooks.com.
"More than just an excellent mystery, Above Suspicion provides a dramatic look at victims and victimization. Author Lynda La Plante doesn't stop until she squeezes the last drop of emotion from the situation. The story and characters seamlessly flow into a reader's awareness as a complete and compelling reality. For a little added pleasure, an understated romance filters through the detectives' day-to-day grind. Highly recommended." -- Romance Reviews Today
"This is a terrific British police procedural...The triangular relationships add suspense as the audience wonders whether the naive rookie will fall for the seductive charm of the polished actor or will she act on her admiration and attraction to her superior. Lynda La Plante, author of the delightful Prime Suspect series, provides a marvelous first act to the elation of the sub-genre." -- Harriet Klausner
"Most people hear best-selling British author La Plante's name and think of embattled Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison...here she returns to the familiar (and beloved) police procedural. In this sharp and fast-paced book...as always, La Plante excels at involving readers in the inner workings of a police investigation. Recommended for public libraries." -- Library Journal
"Above Suspicion is a really good thriller with a sympathetic heroine." -- Daily American
"A page-turning, nail-biting, and utterly gripping work of crime fiction." -- True Romance magazine
"For those who love mysteries, and only wish that American crime writer Patricia Cornwell had a dirtier mind, "Above Suspicion" is their book. With the book's American release, Lynda La Plante, the British author of the "Prime Suspect" novels, is back with more bondage, buggery and blasphemy...This perky detective may not only capture the killer and avenge the virgin, but she also emerges as a woman. In the process, La Plante's dead hooker whodunit has turned into an ugly duckling fairy tale" -- Los Angeles Times
"La Plante keeps readers devouring pages at a murderous rate with this mystery starring detective Anna Travis, the clever daughter of a former London police chief." -- People magazine
"snappy...zippy new mystery" -- Entertainment Weekly
"Lynda La Plante practically invented the thriller. She is without a doubt one of the best writers working today. Above Suspicion blew me away -- it grabs you and doesn't let go until the last page." -- Karin Slaughter, author of Faithless and Indelible
"Battle-scarred Jane Tennyson moves offstage to make room for a fresh, unlined face...La Plante has given us a smart, plucky series protagonist who's enormously likable despite, or because of, her frailties." -- Kirkus Reviews