Lockdown by Peter May
isbn 978-1-52941-169-0, ebook, £4.50
Reviewed by Ann Mair
Many readers will be familiar with the crime novels of Peter May, often with Chinese settings or Chinese characters out of China. He has a considerable success with these. About five years ago he took the motif of Bird Flu epidemic as a background to a standard crime detective story. He was however unable to publish as the story was held to be too fantastical. Current pandemic has changed that decision with the bird flu made credible by the rapid spread of Covid 19. I much enjoyed this novel finding some of the familiar themes – finding of bones by retiring detective – assistance of 60 years old female – loss of personal family person. This is a fast and easy read. It has a good ending, don’t read that first.
The detective’s girlfriend brings in the successful disabled person theme, with much detail of two stair lifts, an adapted car. She is one of the vulnerable spots in his life. This is not his wife. There are points where her periods of helplessness are graphically described as were the descriptions of his touch on her without her feeling it. I quote her ‘I wonder if I will ever get used to it’.
The story is set in London under lockdown, with curfew in place. Soldiers man the checkpoints, and shoot to kill if the driver cannot satisfy the rules of those who are out with permission. Child trafficking and purchase of ‘disposable’ children is taken for granted. The bodies are too many to deal with funeral arrangements, they are disposed in bulk. There are occupations of dealing with the dead.
The climax of the story is similar to a film, graphically vividly described. The reader can see what is happening. It reminds me of the action of a particular film in another city. Indeed much of the book is very much patches of themes from other books and films. He uses ideas the reader recognises to carry the story in usual lines. But he does it is an expert way to write a good story anew. I recommended the book to a friend who is not a fast reader, and she told me she was halfway through it already. I was astounded. I will not read the book again as I am now aware of the twists and turns but will look out for other books he has published.