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Black, Sean - 'Lockdown'
Paperback: 582 pages (June 2010) Publisher: Bantam Books ISBN: 0553820621

This is Sean Black's first novel, although Sean has previously worked as a scriptwriter. It features Ryan Lock, who is working as a security consultant for a medical research company, Meditech. The company uses animals for research, and is being targeted by animal rights protesters. But then, surprisingly, the head of the company, Nicholas Van Straten, agrees with the head of the activists, Gray Stokes, that they should abandon animal research. As they are standing together in front of the company's headquarters to announce this decision, Stokes is shot and killed by a professional sniper, and his wife run over by one of the security detail as he drives up in his Hummer. Only the seriously ill daughter, in her wheelchair, survives, as Ryan manages to get her out of the way in time. Was this a mistake? Did the sniper mean to kill the Van Straten, or was he really aiming for Stokes? He then goes after the snipers, but is then seriously injured himself, waking up in hospital a few days later.

Meanwhile, a young boy called Josh Hulme, son of one of the senior researchers (Richard Hulme) in Meditech, is kidnapped, but no ransom note appears to be delivered. Richard asks Ryan to help him even though the FBI are already involved. Ryan and his colleague Tyrone start investigating. Is the kidnapping linked to the animal activists, or is something else going on? Richard Hulme turns out to have left Meditech a couple of weeks earlier, as he too felt animal testing was wrong, so it's not clear why he's been targeted, and his son kidnapped. The company is making vaccines for dangerous diseases. Having tested them on animals, they now want to test them on humans, and this goal in the end turns out to be linked to the kidnapping and the researcher. As might be expected, the book ends in a series of violent action filled scenes that could probably go straight to film.

The plot development in this book is fairly minimal and what there is is fairly unbelievable. For the sake of balance, I'd like to point out that developing vaccines, which involved some animal testing, has actually saved countless lives in the past century, and has contributed both to the quality, and length of life that many people now enjoy. Unfortunately, this is glossed over in this book, and Meditech are made out to be the type of dangerous scientists that we should all be wary of. In real life, all medicines including vaccines must go through human trials, using volunteers. In the book, the company somehow manages to get the US government to hand over some dangerous Chechen terrorists, to use as guinea pigs for the vaccine trials, under duress. This seems somewhat unlikely, and any outcome would be quite difficult to write up as a research paper. But then this is fiction.

Ryan is depicted as a strong, no-nonsense, determined professional with a bit of a soft side - well, he has a girlfriend, and quite likes to pet dogs. His girlfriend, Carrie, works as a TV journalist and handily does all Ryan's research in the blinking of an eye, no questions asked. It all feels like a bit of a cliche, and Ryan's character is pretty two-dimensional. It's the action that counts. All in all, the book is competently written, and easy to read. In fact, I think I read this book in record time. It's probably a good one to read on a plane, when none of the films are worth watching.

Michelle Peckham, England
July 2010

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 14/08/2010 20:10