A troubled middle school in a poor urban neighborhood is experiencing a rebirth thanks to a decimated and gifted principal named Linda along with the subtle wisdom of Tío the janitor. Of course, there are others, teachers, parents, students who all contribute to the school coming together in spite of the odds and the odds are tough. A beloved little young girl named Bea has disappeared, nearly breaking her friends, particularly young Nick. Then there was the murder of one student’s babysitter  by another student’s brother and  the divided loyalties that created as one student is now testifying against the killer. But it’s Career Day, a special day exploring hopes and dreams as well as the challenges and realities of their futures.

The story progresses in several short, short chapters, a tick tock of their lives from midnight to just after noon. There are a few interstitial chapters that give background and context. There are some case notes from Nick’s school counselor. Students are preparing for the day, some with anger and some with fear. Some feel as though today is the day for drastic action. You know something is about to happen, the tension builds inexorably. We follow several students and staff and even a local police officer there to talk about her job for Career Day….and yet I was still surprised. It was always fair, but so surprising.

Laurie R. King has created some memorable series characters during her long, impressive writing career. There’s Mary Russell, Sherlock Holme’s fearless and peerless wife. Then there is Kate Martinelli, the San Francisco police detective. She mines the era between the wars with Stuyvesant & Grey. She’s recently moved away from series and Lockdown stands on its own. I will say, though, it was a pleasure to encounter a favorite character from the Kate Martinellis series who pops up to give a little bit of help to the cop.

I enjoyed Lockdown  very much. The pace kept getting faster and faster and faster. It is an ambitious story and suggests another novel that must be written, the story of Bea. But then I want a sequel with Gordon and Linda, too. So I am greedy. And that brings up the one flaw in Lockdown. It is not one story, it is many stories. There is the school tragedy thriller, the mercenaries and revenge thriller, the haunted house and multiverse adventure, and surely Tío has more stories in him, too. There’s an incomplete quality. We rush headlong to the crisis, then the denouement is wrapped up in a few paragraphs…with a short coda. I think King fell in love with these characters and overloaded this book with too many who are too interesting. I know that’s an odd criticism, I know, but it made the book feel unfinished for me. Which means King needs to get busy and give us more of these endearing people.

Lockdown will be released June 13th. I received an e-galley in advance from the publisher through NetGalley.

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