When Peter May first wrote Lockdown years ago, publishers turned it down because the dystopian scenario was unrealistically bleak and readers would not be able relate to the idea of mandatory quarantine. My how things have changed! With the world in crisis from the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, May’s publisher has rushed publication of Lockdown so that it can be available to his fans. To be sure, reading this book in the midst of crisis may not be every reader’s idea of a distracting afternoon, but there is also something to be said for being enveloped in such a similar story that has even a minutia of resolution. Individuals will need to make their own decision on if/when to read it, but Lockdown is a thriller that feels more immediate than most and certainly deserved to make its way into the world.
Lockdown begins with London already deep in a state of limited movement, virus outbreak, and dangerous conditions. D. I. Jack MacNeil is just a day away from retiring from the Metropolitan Police. MacNeil’s role in the department has been diminishing and he feels that the stresses of his career caused his marriage to end in shambles. Now he is determined to do right by his young son and focus on something other than his job.
That is, until the workers scrambling to build a temporary hospital to house the sudden surge in patients discover a satchel on-site. Inside this bag are a set of human bones – a child – stripped of all flesh. Since these bones appeared overnight, this becomes an immediate priority investigation. But how will MacNeil discover the identity of this victim and find the perpetrator(s) while the entire city is under strict quarantine?
Remembering that Peter May wrote this long before anything like this had ever happened, he does an amazing job of bringing to life what life in lockdown would look like. There is some comfort to be had in that his depiction of this crisis is slightly worse than the reality – he shows readers a city under martial law and a virus that is even deadlier than Covid-19, but the sadly now-iconic reality is present as well. There is the limited grocery runs, the shortage of supplies, the fear of most citizens, and those few who are determined to forego the rules for their own betterment. It is a sobering look at our current situation, but the idea that this one man, MacNeil, is so dedicated to his job that he must find justice for this innocent child is reassuring in a way that was previously unthinkable.
To make matters worse, not only does Jack MacNeil need to mitigate his risks in terms of the virus while doing his investigation, a professional killer with ties to the murder is hot on his heels. Peter May keeps the tension high with readers wondering which of the two will get to each witness first. This exciting cat and mouse game takes place all across a deserted London – from secluded neighborhoods to secret underground clubs to the legendary London Eye. Lockdown is a fast read that demands to be consumed as quickly as possible.
It is also worth noting that Peter May has populated his London with as diverse a cast of characters as one might expect from this bustling metropolis. Again, remembering that this novel was written quite a while ago, this reveals that Peter May was far ahead of the curve in terms of bringing needed diversity to the crime fiction landscape. For that reason alone, Lockdown would be a welcome addition to his repertoire, but fortunately for readers it also proves to be one heck of a thriller – albeit one that feels almost prescient.