Review: Lockdown by Janna Thompson


Title: Lockdown

Author: Janna Thompson

Published: 1st October 2022, Clan Destine Press

Status: Read January 2023 courtesy Clan Destine Press


My Thoughts:


“I imagined recruiting a gang of old women to be undercover agents.  What would they be called: the Grey Ghosts, the White Spectres, the Senior Sleuths or the Killer Crones? I decided that final name wouldn’t be right. My gang would not commit murder; the Grey Ghosts would be a force for good.”

Professor Janna Thompson, one of Australia’s most eminent philosophers with expertise in environmental ethics, feminism and global justice, who published many scholarly articles and books during her career, was also a life long crime fiction fan. Lockdown has been published posthumously after her untimely death in mid 2022.

Set in Melbourne in early 2020, Lockdown is an entertaining mystery told from the alternating perspectives of unassuming retired philosophy lecturer Meg Thorne, and Jenny Mueller, a woman confined to a bed in a nursing home.

Meg is the founding member of the Grey Ghosts, a group of three women who have created their own detective agency. As women of a certain age, Meg, Lila Gatti and Dorothy Arden have learnt they are often overlooked or ignored in most situations and as such are excellent at subterfuge. Having already successfully assisted in exposing a fraudster, the women are confident they can help when they are asked to investigate Sunnyvale Residential and Care Home, which houses a mix of permanent and temporary residents, by a son worried about his mother, Sara Brighouse.

As the eldest and frailest of the group, Meg is the obvious choice to enter the nursing home, though she’s reluctant. She has traumatic memories of her own mother’s time in such an institution but with reassurance from her friends, she allows herself to be convinced. Feigning a recent fall and the need for a recovery period, Meg moves in with high hopes she can resolve the case quickly but Sara, who appears frightened, refuses to talk.

Meanwhile Jenny, who is kept heavily sedated and confined to a bed in the medical ward, desperately wants to talk with her best friend, Sara. As she slips in and out of awareness she recalls disturbing memories from her childhood as well as happier times shared with Sara.

As Meg tries to find the source of Sara’s distress, several possible causes come to light, some of these prove to be red herrings, while others overlap with Meg’s main objective. Thompson’s plotting is thoughtful and I enjoyed the unraveling of the mystery. The tension in the novel heightens considerably as Meg, on the cusp of solving the mystery, is trapped in the Home when the Coronavirus pandemic begins, and someone is determined she won’t leave alive.

Thompson touches on a number of serious themes in Lockdown including ageism, cancer, sexual assault, elder abuse, addiction, and of course the threat posed by the pandemic. Still the tone is reasonably light and there are flashes of humour, even a spark of romance (though Meg denies it).

An engaging mystery, Lockdown is another fine legacy Janna Thompson has gifted the world.


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