‘Deadlock’ by Simon Fox: A Book Review

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Last year, I reviewed Simon Fox’s debut children’s novel, Running Out of Time. It’s a great time-bending caper that carries an important message about the plight of refugees. It was one of the best books I read in 2022, so I was interested to see how Fox’s follow-up,  Deadlock, would compare. Once again, he has delivered a fast-paced intriguing thriller with emotional weight.

What Is Deadlock?

Deadlock is not a sequel to Running Out of Time. It gives us new characters and a new premise. There isn’t anything in it quite as clever as the time travel elements from Running out of Time, but instead, we have Archie, a 13-year-old safecracker extraordinaire. 

Archie and his dad bonded over lockpicks. Archie’s mum has died and together they are battling through their grief. His dad is a policeman who works for the antiques and art crimes team. He’s taught Archie how to pick locks and crack safes. As a way of overcoming their loss, they compete against one another to see who can complete lock-breaking challenges the fastest. 

Archie’s world implodes when his dad is arrested for the theft of some precious diamonds. He finds himself on the run, with nothing but an address of somewhere safe to stay. Why was his dad arrested? Surely he’s innocent. Yet, if he is innocent, why is he so good at picking locks? 

When Archie arrives at the safe house, he meets Bunny, the daughter of a convicted felon. She has no doubts as to the innocence of Archie’s dad, yet together, they are drawn into a plot of grand theft and police corruption. 

Why Read Deadlock?

Deadlock is an entertaining story aimed at 9 to 12-year-olds. 

Simon Fox has a great way with action and suspense. Deadlock is a book that demands to be read. You want to know the resolution to the central mystery right from the moment it is revealed. The pacing of the novel is perfect. Short bursts of action, a reveal, followed by a regroup and another burst of action. 

Archie and Bunny make an excellent pairing. There isn’t anything in this book with the emotional heft as the portrayal of asylum seekers that we saw in Running Out of Time, but nevertheless, Fox handles the emotional intersection of these two characters with aplomb. One has a parent who is a cop, the other a convicted criminal. The book examines the idea that “good people do bad things,” but it is not schmaltzy or unrealistic.

There is genuine doubt as to whether perhaps Archie’s dad is corrupt, and whether other characters in the book might have chosen different paths, if alternatives had been open to them. Some of the players, however, are just out and out venal. They’d stop at nothing in order to be rich. I liked that the criminal elements in the book do have shades of grey, but we never lose the idea of “good vs bad,” which I think is probably vital in a book aimed at 9-12-year-olds. 

The book overall all is tightly plotted, well-paced, and has a wholly satisfying conclusion. 

With Running out of Time Simon Fox hit the ground at a blistering pace. I don’t think Deadlock quite lives up to his scintillating debut, but this book continues to show that Fox is a talented creator of children’s action thrillers. I’m really looking forward to seeing what escapades he treats us to next. 

If you would like to pick up a copy of Deadlock you can do so here in the US and here in the UK. (Affiliate Links)

If you enjoyed this review,check out my other book reviews. 

I received a copy of this book in order to write this review. 

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