This thriller by Peter May might seem like a bit of opportunistic marketing for a novel but in fact he starting writing this as far back as 2005.
On completion he couldn’t find a publisher as they couldn’t see a city in quarantine as realistic (ironic) so when Covid-19 came along he couldn’t help but be struck by the similarities and dug it out his online storage, gave it a polish and sent it off.
Unsurprisingly, he was inundated with offers.
Right from the start this story gives you chills, not just because of the subject matter but because some of the details are so prescient it could have been used as a text book for the government,. Perhaps a guide how not quite to go about things?
In the first few chapters you learn the Prime Minister has caught this fatal flu and that politicians at the top are too slow to respond – sound familiar?
At heart this is a crime novel and one that quite accurately predicts we are quite responsible for our own mess as humans – by giving a virus the chance to spread.
We follow the lead character DI Jack MacNeil, a flawed, rugged, rude, Scottish paint by numbers-type crime protaganist.
He looks rough, is anti-establishment but has a heart of gold , so is easy to identify and sympathise with.
In the last few days of his police career with London’s Met, he’s in a secret relationship with his colleague after the failure of his marriage and has a young son who is his whole world.
Then the bones of a young girl are found at the site of a new temporary hospital being built to house the sick.
The murder sets of a chain of events that lead to not just a murderer but a plot that has altered the future of the human race altogether.
Right from the start the story in set in a darkly atmospheric, dystopian, situation that is familiar – yet not.
Traits from our own pandemic are recognisable in the masks, the lockdown, and even the curfew seems reasonable now.
But in this story there is a drug to fend it off but few can afford it.
This takes the story forward toward what may have been and what may have caused it – but to say more would be to give away the story.
This novel is not for the faint-hearted but also largely just a crime thriller and enjoyable – my tip don’t read too much into it about our current situation, just take it as as the fictional story it is.
The question is who will stop MacNeil first – the virus or the killers?
READ MORE: 10 questions with author A.J.Ashworth