Simon Fox's debut last year, 'Running Out of Time', was an excellent high concept thriller (my review here) With 'Deadlock' he has succeeded in making an even pacier, even more gripping thrill-ride. This is perfect for able readers, or early teens, wanting something grittier and mature with real-world consequences and complex plot-lines.
Archie Blake thought his policeman father teaching him how to pick locks and open safes was just a bit of fun. But when a diamond necklace is stolen and his dad is arrested, Archie realises the only way to prove Dad's innocence is to go on the run and use everything he's learned to uncover the truth. But Archie soon finds himself deeply tangled in the criminal underworld, where it's hard to know who to trust and even harder to see what's right or wrong. Will Archie be able to find a way out before it's too late?
'Deadlock' grips you from its lock-picking opening chapter and it doesn't loosen in its hold. This is very much a sophisticated tale of a young fugitive trying to prove his father's innocence. The police are never far behind. Dangers abound at every turn. Twists add depth and unravel the mystery. And time is ticking. It's an addictive read.
Archie himself is street-smart and brave. And I especially liked the subplot of him trying to overcome his anxieties, his traumas, as the perils mount around him. We learn lots about his past as the story unfolds at break-neck speed. Brighton is a great setting too, and as I've visited many times, the story was all the more vivid for it. Simon Fox excels in grounding the plot in reality - it feels very adult, in a way that will really appeal to Upper Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 readers. Everything connects, leading to a nail-biting climax and a satisfying resolution.
Simon Fox is a rising star in children's thriller writing. I look forward to what he will write next!