Sunday, August 15, 2021

Lockdown: Peter May

 From the cover of my edition of Lockdown:

London, the epicenter of a global pandemic, is a city in lockdown. Violence and civil disorder simmer. Martial law has been imposed. A deadly virus has already claimed thousands of victims. Health and emergency services are overwhelmed.

...

At a building site for a temporary hospital, construction workers find a bag containing the rendered bones of a murdered child. ... D.I. Jack MacNeil, counting down the hours on his final day with the Met, is sent to investigate. His career is in ruins, his marriage over and his own family touched by the virus. 


Peter May wrote this book about 15 years before it was published. At that time, he could not find a publisher; the story was deemed to be an unrealistic portrayal of London in lockdown. After the Covid-19 outbreak began, it seemed to be the time for this book, and it was released in April 2020. The pandemic in Lockdown is caused by the H5N1 flu, or bird flu, which is much more serious than Covid-19, with a higher mortality rate. 



D.I. MacNeil is pretty much investigating the crime by himself, given the shortage of police officers due to the pandemic, but he does have the help of the forensics staff. Dr. Amy Wu is working on a facial reconstruction, to help in identification of the victim. Both elements of the story are very well done, but I found Amy's work on the reconstruction more interesting and her backstory is good. MacNeil is a dedicated cop, working to finish the case before he is no longer employed as a policeman, and he is portrayed as tough as nails and with the typical problems with alcohol and family relationships. 

In other books by Peter May that I have read, I liked the use of setting more than I liked the mystery / crime investigation. This time I thought the mystery was very good, suspenseful and compelling, but the setting of a pandemic in London did not work so well for me. I cannot put into words exactly why but I just wasn't impressed with that element of the story. The pandemic does affect the investigation in many ways, and that is interesting.

There are some serious, scary bad guys in this story. They don't want the dead child to be identified, and anyone who has information harmful to them is a threat. The buildup of suspense is very good. The ending is a bit of a downer, although I was  expecting something like that to happen.


One of the things I especially like about Peter May is that he writes very good articles that give background on the setting of his novels and why he wrote them. Check out this article at Shots Crime and Thriller Ezine for his thoughts on writing Lockdown.


 -----------------------------

Publisher:   Quercus, 2020
Length:       399 pages
Format:       Trade paperback
Setting:       London, UK
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:       I purchased my copy in 2020.

17 comments:

Cath said...

Peter May's writing is always superb, I especially like his Enzo McCleod series that I've read a few of but the Lewis Trilogy is excellent too. All that said, I'm not ready for pandemic based books yet. I'm all too aware that our current one has a low mortality rate and it could have been so, so much worse. I find that possibiliy too scary to want to read about it. I'm such a wimp!

TracyK said...

I do understand that, Cath. I bought a copy of this book in the middle of last year and waited a year to read it. As you say, May's writing is always good and the book was a relatively fast read for me, given that it was almost 400 pages long.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I love his Lewis series too but am probably not going to read this. The idea of a worse virus/flu just terrifies me.

TracyK said...

Patti, I never thought about it much, but I probably would not have read any pandemic-oriented novel if I did not already like the author's work. And that element was not the strongest part of the book, in my opinion. I have started reading several of May's series, but haven't finished any of them.

Margot Kinberg said...

I like Peter May's work very much, Tracy, and I know what you mean about his skill at depicting settings. I think he develops strong characters, too, and I find that appealing. Even though the setting didn't work as well for you as other settings have, I'm glad you found things to like about this one.

Sam Sattler said...

I love the sound of this one...police procedural and near-dystopian novel all rolled into one. I'm happy for the author that he finally got it published; it turned out to be money in the bank for him. And the links to his articles makes it all even better.

TracyK said...

Margot, there are many things to like about this book. The two main characters are very well drawn. And some very convincing bad guys.

TracyK said...

Sam, this does have a dystopian feel to it. No one (almost) except the police and health care workers can be out on the streets ... and then of course, looters and criminals. It gives it a very isolating feeling. Peter May is great about sharing information about settings and even events that inspired him.

col2910 said...

Tracy, probably not one I care to read, though I do want to try this author. I'll have to try and dig out something from the pile. I can't actually remember what I have.

TracyK said...

Probably anyone you picked would be a good read for you, Col, although I would suggest starting with the first in the series if you read the Lewis Trilogy.

CLM said...

Good review! I haven't read May (although always mean to!) but it is interesting that we often say we want writers to be innovative and try new things in theory but when they do, they can't always find a publisher or please their loyal readers.

I am not sure how I feel about Covid books but having lived in NYC for 9/11, I decided I didn't really want to read books about that.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Constance. It is hard to read every author (and every genre) that you might be interested in. Peter May has several different series and a good number of standalone books. I think I have now read six of his books.

I have never been interested in 9/11 books either, although I was not so close to it. I thought this book about a different fictional pandemic would be interesting because it was written years ago, but that part of it really wasn't what I liked about the book.

Rick Robinson said...

I like the Peter May books I’ve read, and Barbara read and liked the Lewis trilogy, so I know May’s writing is very good. If the library has this, I’ll try it.

BTW - went to eye doc this morning, as I suspected I need new glasses, both distance and reading (I wear bi-vocals), so, in a few weeks, maybe things will be clearer, or should I say more clear.

Rick Robinson said...

So, none of the three county library systems from which we can borrow had it. Overdrive doesn’t have it available in my area. No copies on BookSwap. Sigh. I ordered a copy from the book store.

TracyK said...

Rick, I think you will like this story and I will be interested to hear what you think of it. I am very surprised that the libraries don't have copies of the book.

Glad to hear that you will be getting glasses that will improve your vision. Problems with vision can be very frustrating. I was reading short stories this morning and sometimes the print was fuzzy. It would come and go.

Rick Robinson said...

It came yesterday, but we both have other books in line ahead of it, so, eventually.

TracyK said...

Rick, that is good to hear, and I hope that at least one of you enjoys it.