Love for Lockdown

My friends at Deadly Pleasures Magazine have given Lockdown a lovely long review.

I hope they don’t mind, but I think I’ll post the whole thing here–and, they named it one of their Best Novels of 2017. Thank you, Deadly Pleasures!

Readers would be justified in thinking that with a title like Lockdown, the new Laurie R. King novel was going to present a thriller about a school under siege; and in a way, that is exactly what is provided – though hardly via the expected method.

It is career day at Guadalupe Middle School. It should be a day when the students examine what the future holds for them, but instead the tensions that lie just under the surface of this societal microcosm threaten to erupt.

Lockdown is a true ensemble piece. Laurie R. King puts into place a collection of characters with enough secrets, scandals, suspicion, and lies to keep readers guessing throughout the unfolding of this tragic incident. There is such diversity presented on the page – a true reflection of the melting pot that is America – and each character is vividly drawn.

King structures her novel by starting chapters with time-stamps documenting the day’s activities from multiple points of view in a steady movement forward. Readers know immediately that this a device used as a virtual countdown clock to impending trouble. Occasionally, King will recount past events that have a bearing on the current plot. Among other things, these include details of a student’s death the previous year, the principal’s time spent in Papua New Guinea, and a controversial trial that is taking place across town.

About two-thirds of the way Lockdown, King presents a series of chapters that are inspired by the opening line of the principal’s career day lecture. The leader of the school starts out by alluding to the school population as a tapestry of unique threads. This leads to each of our ensemble cast reflecting on what that phrase means in relation to themselves. It is beautifully executed and had it ended there, it would have been the highlight of the novel – but King goes even one step further. At the end of this section, the school principal modifies her metaphor in a way that takes it from stuffy and erudite to gritty and modern. The shift is not forced and seems so obvious after the fact, but when it happens, the moment is extremely powerful and marks a decided shift in the nature of the narrative. This short collection of chapters alone is a master class on unifying a narrative and the characters involved while also exposing the more global aspects of a theme.

The violent incident towards which the entirety of Lockdown is leading does not occur until very late in the novel. This reinforces the idea that the denouement, while an important part of the work as a whole, is not as important as the “why” that causes it.   Incremental actions leading to massive reactions is something we are seeing more and more of in today’s modern world and by recounting this in a small, enclosed environment, King is able to document the dangers involved in such decisions.

The brevity of the violence in Lockdown may surprise some, but it is clear from the novel’s structure that this was not King’s focus. If I have one complaint about the novel it would be that the lack of bloodshed seems unrealistic given what we have seen occur in similar real-life situations. But this is not a book about the attack; this is a novel about people, about society, and about interaction. As such, longtime fans of Laurie R. King will delight in the brief appearance of Kate Martinelli and Brother Erasmus – beloved characters from her earliest series. They are only a tiny part of Lockdown, but their arrival helps to expand the canvas of the novel, reinforcing the idea that this type of thing can happen anywhere, at any time.

Laurie R. King’s Lockdown is a timely novel, meticulously written, and sure to have readers thinking long after the story is told. 

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  1. Brad on January 30, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Brava for not staying in the comfortable world of Mary Russell. It is a mark of your confidence that you could take on something so contemporary, and nail it.

    One thing I have noticed about female authors which was touched upon in the review, and that I try to emulate, is the use of the action to show the inner world of your characters, and their relationships.

  2. Deborah on January 30, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Yes, THAT’S the Lockdown I read last year; NOT a failure. This review articulates much of what I found. It is wonderfully written; my favorite part is who takes care of the threat. We are all in this together.

  3. Laurie King on January 30, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Yes, the various replies to this and the last post suggest that Lockdown was out of its place for June 2017. We shall see how its reputation changes in the future–but thanks for these comments.

  4. Annamarie on January 30, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    You have absolutely zippy to hang your head about with that book? Failure? Bah! I have great taste, and *I* say it’s a brilliant book. I about fell out of my chair to see a few “special” people from other books show up (no spoilers here!). Structure and story are WOW. I fell into several sections, Gordon and Linda, especially (a book in itself!).

  5. Maureen Morey on January 31, 2018 at 12:05 am

    I almost didn’t read this book when I thought it was about a school shooting. But read it I did and was very glad I did. The unique style and interwoven stories showed what a complex world we live in and how one person can so easily influence another for good or ill. I came away from this book with a feeling of hope and faith in the goodness of others to stand by one another, to support one another, to show love and care for one another. That’s no small thing.
    I’ve been a fan of yours Laurie, for a long time. This departure from the usual was icing on the cake.

  6. Lenore on January 31, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    I liked the book a lot, and feel that a lot of the blame for the fact that it didn’t do better commercially — although, as you noted above, over time its reputation may grow — is due to the insistence that the title be changed from “Career Day” to “Lockdown.” The problems with “Lockdown” as a title are many — it telegraphs the ending, it is not really the main subject of the book, people are put off by the thought of reading a book about a school shooting (which the totality of the book was not, but how could you tell that from the title?). People know you write thrillers, thus “Career Day” was never going to be perceived as focusing on the mechanics or tedious speeches of a middle school career day.

    And like many fans, I was fascinated by Gordon and wonder if he couldn’t appear in another book.

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