Fresh Blood

Name: Jack Lutz

Title of Book: London In Black

'I pounded my way through ‘London In Black’...'


Terrorists deploy London Black, a highly sophisticated nerve gas, at Waterloo Station. For ten percent of the population - the ‘Vulnerables’ - exposure means near-certain death. Only a lucky few survive.


Copy-cat strikes plague the city, its Vulnerable inhabitants kept safe by regular Boost injections. As the anniversary of the first attacks draws near, DI Lucy Stone, a guilt-ridden Vulnerable herself, is called to investigate a gruesome murder of a scientist. Her investigation soon unearths the possibility that he was working on an antidote – one that Lucy desperately needs, as her Boosts become less and less effective.

But is the antidote real? And can Lucy solve the case before her Boosts stop working?

‘London In Black’ is one of those dystopian books you are drawn towards, having lived through the recent pandemic. We thankfully didn’t experience the chaos of Lutz’s London, but here is also the fear of many of the populace being exposed to a nerve gas that can kill. As with Covid, some are affected whilst others are not. It is a Russian roulette as to who this gas affects. Whether it is a germ or nerve gas, I could feel the fear of the unknown felt by Lutz’s cast of characters.

Lutz’s story revolves round DI Lucy Stone who isn’t the most approachable person in the room. I was worried that her spikiness would put me off empathising with her, however, Lutz is clever at showing Stone’s softer side as her own personal story is unravelled throughout the main thrust of the investigation. She is not simply dealing with a murder, but a race to find a legendary cure that will save her as well as countless other ‘Vulnerables’ who are running out of time as the ‘Boosts’ efficacy seems to be wearing off.

Lutz paints a picture of London in turmoil. It is quite 1984-esque. I pounded my way through ‘London In Black’ and although this is not my usual choice, I found Stone engaging and someone I could rout for. I am not sure if Lutz will take us back to London 2027, but I look forward to reading his next one.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) Your debut, ‘London In Black’ is set in London 2029, two years after the initial terrorist attack that spread a new nerve gas. An event that has become known as ‘London Black’. When did you have the idea for this scenario? Was it before or after the Covid pandemic and was it weird to write your book as events around the world unfolded?
I first came up with the story for ‘London in Black’ in mid-2019. It began life as a screenplay, but by autumn 2019 I’d decided to switch over to writing it as a novel. When the pandemic began, I was about two-thirds of the way through the first draft.

There are honestly quite a few differences between the pandemic and the plot of ‘London in Black’. But yes – I was writing about the aftermath of a major public health crisis in the middle of a major public health crisis, and there were times when the real world echoed something I’d written only months (or even weeks) before. It was quite surreal.
2) Your main protagonist is DI Lucy Stone who is not the most appealing of coppers. It was quite a gamble to make her determined, yet difficult to actually like – which is mainly of her own making, as Lucy has been through the wars. Was it deliberate to make her spiky and controversial?
The truth is, I didn’t plan Lucy at all. She just popped into my head, pretty much fully-formed. Like she’d tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Right, here’s me then, now get on with it.’

At one point, I sat down at my laptop and began to type up a backstory, written from Lucy’s perspective…and the words just came pouring out. By the next day, I had six thousand words of uninterrupted first-person narrative. And the voice was exactly the voice that appears in the novel. In fact, I used chunks of that interview verbatim in the finished novel.
3) There were shades of 1984 in the way your present London after the events of 2027. It felt like a city in constant fear. Did you mean for London to be so dark?
Absolutely. I meant for it to feel pitch black. At the beginning of the novel, Lucy is teetering on the brink. She lives in a tiny flat she’s painted entirely black for reasons she refuses to talk about with anyone. Sleep brings horrible PTSD-induced nightmares. She has rage attacks and flashbacks, but she’s refusing therapy.

Lucy’s life is really dark, and I wanted the city that she navigates over the course of the story to be an extension of that…London, in black.
4) It is a race against time for Lucy as she is classed as a ‘vulnerable’ and the efficacy of her boosts against London Black are fast diminishing while she is trying to find the killer of the man who invented the boosts that keep her alive. It says you got the idea for ‘London In Black’ when changing trains on the underground. What was the kernel that started this journey which began in the London Underground?
Looking back, I’m sure everything in the book is some sort of murky reflection of my own personal history, my family history, my emotional state as I wrote.

But at the time? It felt like I was just standing on the platform at Canada Water station, minding my own business, when suddenly I had Lucy Stone in my head, demanding to be written. That’s how it began.
5) What bit of advice would you give to anyone starting out writing their debut?
Write everything down, as soon as you possibly can.

So much of the novel came to me when I wasn’t in front of my laptop. Plot points, dialogue, scene descriptions. Often it came just as I was falling asleep, or as I was half-awake in the early morning. I kept my phone next to my bed, and if I thought of something, I forced myself to grab my phone and make a note. Every. Single. Time.

Sure, loads of it went unused… but some of my favourite parts of the novel came from those notes, and if I’d just trusted myself to remember the next day, I’m sure much of it would have been lost.
6) Are you a fan of crime fiction? If so, which three crime novels would you like with you if stranded on a desert island?
‘The Adventures of Isabel’ by Candas Jane Dorsey. I love this book so incredibly much – it’s immensely funny, and I could happily dip into it off and on all day long, just enjoying the protagonist’s voice.

‘Five Minds’ by Guy Morpuss. So clever. So twisty.

‘Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s on Kindle as one book! It counts!