Lockdown, by Peter May

Someone suggested to Peter May that he ought to write a thriller set in the Coronavirus/Covid-19 lockdown. It turned out that he had written just such a book, about 15 years ago. He had predicted a very dystopian locked down London in the midst of a pandemic – but the publishers had thought it unlikely. Well, now it has been published.

Lockdown is set in a dystopian London, the centre of the pandemic of a highly virulent and lethal mutation of the H5N1 flu virus. The army is on the streets, Battersea Power Station has been brought back into use as a crematorium.

I read the passage in which the death of the Prime Minister is reported on the day our PM went into intensive care.

In the midst of this all, a bag of human bones is found. Our detective hero investigates. He is hampered every step of the way by people who don’t want him to uncover the truth. It’s all a bit James Bond like, with plenty of action and lots of violent deaths. In the denouement our hero rescues the girl.

This is an early Peter May, not up to the standards of his more recent novels. A good romp, but I’ve read better. 5 out of 10.

29. Coffin Road, by Peter May

Peter May writes good crime thrillers, no doubt about it. I really enjoyed the Lewis trilogy a few years ago. Entry Island was superb.

And so I settled down to this book, listening on my commutes over the last couple of weeks. The story hooks you from the start. OK, so the initial scene of a man washed up on a beach having lost his memory and not knowing who he is or what he is doing there is not entirely original, but it grabs attention, and we go from there.

And the story goes on. The pace never lets up. All the way to the final scene, which other reviewers would no doubt call ‘explosive’.

One thing I love is the descriptions of Lewis and Harris. I really need to visit the Outer Hebrides!

Yes, a good yarn. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of the books I mentioned earlier, so 8 out of 10.

20. Trap, by Lilja Sigurdardottir.

Trap is part 2 in the trilogy which begins with Snare.  I think it is best read as the second act in a three act drama.

It continues the story of Sonja and Agla well, building up to the third part, Cage – due out in October 2019.  The blurb on Cage will no doubt describe it as the ‘explosive’ conclusion, they always do, and I hope it will live up to that billing.

I am not sure how well this book works as a stand-alone work, and not as part 2 of 3.

I gave Snare 8/10, so Trap gets the same.  When I read Cage, I will give the series an overall rating.

19. The Run-Out Groove, by Andrew Cartmel

The difficult second novel?

I have returned to the Vinyl Detective series for the second instalment.  In this one our hero investigates the mysteries surrounding death of Valerian, a 1960s rock singer who died – as the best deceased rock stars do – age 27.  Twists and turns, danger from unknown adversaries, a lot like the first book, as is to be expected.

I found this less satisfying than the first novel, Written In Dead Wax, for two reasons. First, there is no longer any mystery about Nevada: she is now the girlfriend, and does nothing particularly surprising. Second, the ending is totally rushed.

So, 4 out of 10.

That said, I have read good things about the third in the series, so I shall probably come back to that one. Let’s hope it doesn’t disappoint.

18. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North

I picked up this book in Waterstones’ cafe last year. The beginning intrigued me.

The premise is that Harry August is re-born each time he dies.  He lives his life over again, albeit never in the same way.  He accumulates knowledge and experience across his lifetimes, as do others of his rare kind.

The story becomes something of a time travelling thriller, a cat and mouse chase over several repeated lifetimes.  I am sorry to say that the characters lacked credibility and depth. I would say a good idea that needed a better writer. Sorry. 3 out of 10.

16. Snare, by Lilja Sigurdardottir

Another Icelandic crime story, set in the aftermath of the banking crash and the Eyjafallajokull volcano that closed down air traffic in (I think) 2010.

Sonja is divorced. She has no money. She becomes a drugs courier, bringing cocaine into Iceland. She is in an on-off relationship with Agla, who is facing criminal investigation for her role in financial scandals. For a large part of the book, the story is about Sonja and Customs officer Bragi, who is sure she is up to no good.  But then the twists and turns happen…

This is the promising first in a trilogy.  More soon. 8 out of 10.

12. Sunfall, by Jim Al-Khalili

You probably know who Jim Al-Khalili (‘Professor Jim’ in our house) is. Professor of Physics, presenter of tv series popularising science.  Now he has written a novel.

Set in the not too distant future, the world is facing a calamitous doomsday that threatens the existence of life on this planet. Only quantum physics can save the day.

Add in to the mix a nutjob terrorist outfit who want the end of the world to happen, and the James Bond-type efforts of the brilliant physicists who have worked out how to save the planet, and you have a science fiction thriller.

Good fun. 8 out of 10.