CLEAN CUT is the third book in the Anna Travis series, based in London and La Plante knows how to write real female characters, and she's not afraid to make them likable and profoundly irritating all at the same time.
In CLEAN CUT, the spark that started between Anna and her boss, James has advanced to a full blown affair. He's keeping his own flat, but most nights he's at Anna's. And she's just ever so slightly grumpy about it - James is very self-absorbed and he's a selfish sod to live with and it's all grating just a bit on Anna. When James is horrifically injured arresting a suspect in the murder of a young prostitute in some ways Anna is really conflicted. She loves James, but he's a prickly patient and the prospect of caring for him during rehabilitation is worrying.
Because of the relationship between the two of them, they are working in different squads - on completely different cases, although Anna keeps in touch with the search for the suspect in the prostitute's murder - now wanted for the attack on Langton as well. And as you'd kind of expect, the murder of the young librarian - by a violent serial rapist just released from jail - that Anna is working on is connected to the prostitute case. Luckily the connection is nicely convoluted and built into an underworld of refugees, illegal immigrants, drugs and underworld crime.
There's a lot to like about this series - Anna is a great central character, she's not so cloyingly perfect that she makes the reader feel like a gross underachiever, but at the same time nothing is lost in creating the supporting cast. There's an awful lot to dislike about James Langton as well - he's obsessed, unaware, rude and gruff; but he's also capable of being apologetic, tender and kind. There's a good supporting cast as well which helps a bit as CLEAN CUT does have a very strong focus on Anna and James. So strong that it could be a bit of a danger of distracting from the investigations, if it wasn't for the slightly unusual angle that James is a victim himself.
Given that CLEAN CUT is the third book in the Anna Travis series it could still be read as a standalone - all you need to do is accept there's a bit of a backstory to how Anna and James got together and you should be able to go from there. But if you do read CLEAN CUT, make sure you go back and read ABOVE SUSPICION and THE RED DAHLIA as well. La Plante is a very assured writer of this style of book.