First published in July of 2010, Sean Black’s second novel ‘Deadlock’ followed on as a loose sequel to his debut novel ‘Lockdown’. In order to fully research the savage dog-eat-dog prison environment that the first third of this tale is located within, the author reportedly spent some time in the Pelican Bay Supermax Prison, which is home to some of America’s most violent inmates.
When undercover ATF agent Ken Prager and his family are executed by the white supremacist gang he had attempted to infiltrate - the Aryan Brotherhood - the authorities turn to the gang’s locked-up leaders for answers. Frank Hays (aka ‘The Reaper’) proposes to make a deal with the authorities – keep him off Death Row and he’ll spill the beans on those who authorised the executions.
Such a blatantly disloyal move would land The Reaper in a very dangerous position with the other members of the Aryan Brotherhood. However, the authorities accept his deal; although his terms also include his transfer from the prison Secure Housing Unit to the prison’s general grounds. Keeping The Reaper alive for the five days leading up to the trial of the Aryan Brotherhood’s top figures is paramount. Which is where Lock comes in.
Ryan Lock is an ex-military bodyguard who’s renowned for taking on the jobs that no one else would ever dream of accepting.
Together with the help of his loyal partner Tyrone Johnson, their mission is to shadow The Reaper everywhere he goes in the maximum security prison; acting as undercover bodyguards in a dangerously confined environment, crammed full of potential threats.
However, there is a lot more to the whole affair than first meets the eye. The threat is not just located behind the heavily guarded walls of Pelican Bay Supermax Prison. Lock is about to uncover a highly organized and dangerous plot that runs a hell of a lot deeper than anyone ever suspected...
From the very outset, author Sean Black sets down a fast-paced storyline, delivered in short sharp bursts of two-to-three page chapters that each contain their own miniature cliff hangers and injections of page-turning explosive action. The writing style is simple, choosing to rely on a purely action-packed storyline rather than the merits of a descriptive or generally well-crafted tale. The result is an energy filled plotline, bursting at the seams with twists and turns in the style of a Shaun Hutson thriller.
The characters are as clichéd and predictably over-gritty as you would expect from such a low-grade action thriller. The research into, and references towards, white supremacist gangs is of a very basic and dumbed down nature. Black avoids pulling any hard punches with his storyline, instead choosing to flitter around the tougher-to-deal-with aspects of racism and neo-nazi ideology.
The plot itself reads as a watered-down version of the popular television series '24' (2001 - 2010), with Ryan Lock playing a cardboard cut-out version of the 'Jack Bauer' role. Indeed, gluing together the thrills and kills of this adrenaline-junkies thriller lies nothing more than a litany of predictable and badly developed characters, bumbling from one lucky turn of the plot to the next.
High-brow fiction this is most certainly not. What it lacks in literary skill, it sadly does not make up for with its elaborate plot. Littered with clumsily concocted twists, the whole novel reads as an outrageously farfetched and poorly executed thriller, with the only saving grace being the non-stop-edge-of-your-seat pace maintained throughout the storyline.
At the end of the day, Sean Black’s novel ‘Deadlock’ allows the reader to unplug their brains and settle down to some reasonably uninspired paint-by-numbers action that speeds the reader along the length of the story with its sheer abundance of over-the-top action.
The novel runs for a total of 347 pages.
© DLS Reviews