cover image Cold Blood

Cold Blood

Lynda La Plante. Random House (NY), $23 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44104-5

If it was La Plante's intention to create a character far removed from her memorable Jane Tennison (of Prime Suspect fame), she has succeeded in this sequel to Cold Shoulder. Where the upright, ambitious Tennison was a refreshing original, Lorraine Page is at first glance a compendium of genre cliches: an ex-cop who left the force after killing a child and watching a beloved partner die; a recovering alcoholic who lost custody of her two daughters; a scarred woman who doubts her capacity to love. Yet, La Plante employs these stock character traits so skillfully that they don't blunt the power of her storytelling skills. Page now heads up a failing PI agency in L.A., aided by a perpetually dieting woman she met at an AA meeting and a still-boozing retired police captain. Just as the outfit is about to fold for lack of work, they luck into a case involving the disappearance of Anna Louise Calley. The daughter of a fading movie queen and a real estate tycoon, Anna Louise, 18, went missing in New Orleans almost a year earlier. Motivated by the promise of a million-dollar bonus if they find her alive or dead, Page and her crew stumble through L.A., and through New Orleans streets full of voodoo practitioners and drug dealers to the rich and famous, an underworld of glitzy sex clubs and devious billionaires with secret agendas. The mystery of what happened to Anna Louise is interesting, but the real suspense concerns whether Page--who finds herself drinking again and in bed with the missing girl's father--will fall apart. It takes a while for La Plante to individualize Page, but once she does, Cold Blood loosens up and flows freely. (Nov.)