Lynda La Plante is a prolific author who has written numerous books and several award-winning series, many of which have been turned into television series or movies.
Her Prime Suspect series was an international sensation. The movie Widows was recently released as the project of actor and director Steve McQueen. Widows was La Plante’s breakthrough book and was originally made into a television series about 30 years ago. The recent movie is updated and modern, but faithful to the original story. And so the book Widows, first published in 1983, has been re-released (Zaffre Publishing 2018).
There is no doubt that in the 80’s, Widows was a ground-breaking and trailblazing work in many ways, mostly because it features extremely strong female protagonists as the main characters. Dolly, Shirley and Linda become widows after their husbands are killed in an explosion in a heist gone wrong, and despite being very different and leading contrasting lives, they band together to attempt to pull off the one last big hijack job that robbed them of their husbands.
The book is full of complicated relationships between villains and police, criminals and detectives, bad guys and determined women. A complex plot makes for perfect movie material. But for me, the book fails to stand the test of time. I found the writing dense and flowery, and thought that much of the dialogue was dated. I haven’t yet seen the recent movie, but from all accounts this may be one of those rare occasions when you might actually be better off seeing the movie than reading the book. Of course, there are no doubt legions of La Plante fans who loved this book when it first came out and will probably love reading it again now, and if you are after a certain kind of thrilling heist action narrative, then perhaps for you the shine will not have rubbed off.